Sir Ian hands back the cash in book u-turn

Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen

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Wigan acting great Sir Ian McKellen has told how he handed back a £1m advance for his memoirs because it was “too painful” to delve into his past.

The award-winning stage and screen star’s autobiography was one of the most eagerly anticipated books of recent years.

But Sir Ian, who played Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, later changed his mind about the publication and returned the vast pay-out he received to pen his life story.

He revealed to audiences at the Oxford Literary Festival how committing aspects of his private life to paper had been emotionally fraught.

“Have you ever tried to write a book?” the 76-year-old Sherlock and X-Men star said.

“I put nine months aside to do it, and I got a very handsome advance. Then I sent the money back.

“It was a bit painful – I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.

“Frankly, if anybody wants to know anything about my public life, my working life, my career, it’s all catalogued in greater detail on my website than could ever be put into a book. The privacy of my life I don’t quite understand myself, and it has nothing to do with what I do for a living.

“So there you go – I’m sorry.”

It is thought the book would have gone in to detail about his life growing up in Wigan, where he first developed his love of stage acting.

He was also expected to address his decision in 1988 – then aged 49 – to come out publicly as gay.

Sir Ian, who recently gave his support to Wigan’s first ever Gay Pride march, says he wished he had come out earlier because he believed it made him a better actor.

He said: “I think I would have been a different person and a happier one.”