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10 Photos of Young Ian McKellen — Long Before He Was Gandalf or Magneto

You won't recognize this charmer back in the day!

With a career spanning over six decades, it’s no wonder why Ian McKellen has an energy that can only be described as wise beyond his years. Perhaps it’s the aura he gives off that just screams “Shakespearean,” or maybe it’s just the characters he’s brought to life with such skill (Gandalf, namely), but either way, the 85-year-old British actor leaves us impressed time after time.

Ian McKellen’s illustrious career

During his time at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, a young McKellen cultivated his craft in student theatre, but in 1961, he made his professional debut on stage in a production of A Man for All Seasons.

From there, his career took him far and wide, and his ability to play a vast range of characters is just one of the many reasons for the great success he’s had over the years.

Some of his greatest on-stage performances were in productions including Wild Honey, Richard III and Amadeus, for which he won the Tony Award in 1981.

As for his work on the screen, many know him as the mystical wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings film series. For his role in the first film, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), McKellen was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

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The actor had another bout of blockbuster fame with his roles in the X-Men film series, first taking on the role of villain Magneto in 2000 and reprising it in the following two films.

While these projects are only a fraction of the actor’s resume, they embody the range that he possesses. At 85 years old with a career that’s as successful as his, it’s safe to say he’s doing something right.

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Here, take a look at these young photos of Ian McKellen!

1965: Young Ian McKellen had the charm

Ian McKellen and Tina Packer, 1965
Ian McKellen and Tina Packer, 1965Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Standing alongside Tina Packer, McKellen is seen in the title role of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield for a BBC television production that aired in 1966.

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1969: The British actor looks pensive in this throwback photo

The actor in 1969
McKellen, 1969Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A young actor stares off with his hands folded behind his head in this dreamy shot.

1969: Ian McKellen on the big screen

Sandy Dennis, Ian McKellen, Thank You All Very Much, 1969
Sandy Dennis, Ian McKellen, Thank You All Very Much, 1969Palomar Pictures/Getty Images

McKellen starred alongside Sandy Dennis in Thank You All Very Much, in which Dennis’ character becomes pregnant with his child after a brief affair.

1970: A youthful Ian McKellen gets ready for take off

The British actor in 1970
The actor in 1970McCarthy/Daily Express/Getty Images

The actor looks charming on a motorbike.

1975: Portrait mode

Ian McKellen, 1975
The actor in 1975Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

McKellen poses for a 1975 snapshot.

1978: British bad boy

The actor in 1978
McKellen, 1978Roy Jones/Evening Standard/Getty Images

The actor is pictured smoking in this 1978 photograph.

1978: A celebration

Ian McKellen and Dorothy Tutin, 1978
Ian McKellen and Dorothy Tutin, 1978TPLP/Getty Images

McKellen and Dorothy Tutin stand side by side at the 1978 Society of West End Theatre Awards in London, with McKellen taking home the award for Comedy Performance of the Year and Tutin taking home the award for Actress of the Year in a Revival.

1981: Taking home the Tony

Kevin Kline, Jane Lapotaire, Lauren Bacall, and Ian McKellen, 1981
Kevin Kline, Jane Lapotaire, Lauren Bacall and Ian McKellen, 1981Bettmann/Getty Images

The actor poses with Kevin Kline, Jane Lapotaire and Lauren Bacall at the 1981 Tonys.

1984: Winner, winner

Ian McKellen, 1978
The actor in 1978Dave Hogan/Getty Images

McKellen holds his trophy at the 1984 Society of West End Theatre Awards in London.

1984: Ian McKellen shows off his athleticism

The actor in 1984
Ian McKellen, 1984John Minihan/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

McKellen poses in this 1984 shot.

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