No Nude Scene for Ian McKellen in PBS's 'King Lear'

Ian McKellen says his King Lear, to air in March on PBS, will be allowed to bare his soul so long as other elements of the acting stay family-friendly.
Ian McKellen says his King Lear, to air in March on PBS, will be allowed to bare his soul so long as other elements of the acting stay family-friendly. (By Frederick M. Brown -- Getty Images)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, January 8, 2009

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 7

Sadly, we won't get to see a fully, frontally nude Sir Ian McKellen during PBS's broadcast of "King Lear" in March.

But the decision to cut the nudity was made not by PBS but rather by Trevor Nunn, director of the Royal Shakespeare Company's acclaimed staging of the Shakespearean drama, a public TV suit said.

With a straight face.

The nude-scene question came up about halfway through the Q&A session for the show, which was a shame because we had two bucks riding on it being the first question.

It had seemed like easy money, given that it had been the very first question put to PBS CEO Paula Kerger during her Q&A session at the summer TV Press Tour.

PBS is broadcasting a restaging of the production, which made just three U.S. stops -- New York, Minneapolis and Los Angeles -- when it toured in '07. Tickets in all locations sold out months before the play arrived, and some were scalped at prices approaching $3,000 a pop.

And, yes, in the stage version, during the famous scene in which the king descends into madness, McKellen (who might be best known for his "Lord of the Rings" and "X-Men" roles) stripped off his royal trappings.

"I thought this would come up," McKellen said giddily during the "Lear" Q&A session, his eyes lighting up.

"Let's have a good look at you," he said to the critic who'd asked the question.

The nude bits, McKellen said, were "discreetly avoided" in the broadcast production "because there might be some PBS rules," though he insisted it was absolutely Shakespeare's intent that Lear at least start removing his clothes in that scene.


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