SIR Ian McKellen confessed he’s much prouder having a star in Wigan than he would be if he had one in Hollywood!
The actor, who lived in Wigan from being a baby until he was 12, returned to the borough to unveil his star on the town centre’s Walk of Fame in Believe Square.
Sir Ian has been given the accolade in celebration of an internationally successful career, which has so far spanned more than 50 years.
The 76-year-old icon, who is best known for his roles in Lord of the Rings and X-Men, grew up in a semi-detached house across the road from Mesnes Park.
He took his first acting steps at his primary school, in Dicconson Street Primary School, and Wigan Little Theatre, of which he is a patron.
And his first encounter with Shakespeare was a performance of Twelfth Night by amateurs at WLT. Sir Ian has since taken on leading roles in Macbeth, King Lear and Othello.
I would define myself as a lad from Wigan. I am extremely grateful for the town and all it wasSir Ian McKellen
He said: “I would define myself as a lad from Wigan. I am extremely grateful for the town and all it was.
“Sadly I have no living relatives here anymore. I thought I had no connections with Wigan, but I clearly do. I could not be more moved, I believe in Wigan because it believes in me.
“I am very touched to receive the star. It was quite unexpected and a wonderful excuse to come back to Wigan and have a nosey around and make some new friends here. I’d much prefer a star in Wigan than in Hollywood!”
Sir Ian also spoke about his fond memories of Wigan, going to school, and watching brass bands playing in Mesnes Park. He even attributed seeing traders peddle their wares in the Market Square and the Frank Fortescue Players being one of the things that first interested him in acting.
He said: “I used to spend Saturday mornings at the arcade and I loved Uncle Joe’s toffees. I used to watch the market stallers selling stuff and they were the first professional actors I saw as they put on a show. I loved it.”
As part of his visit Sir Ian enjoyed a civic reception and spoke to members of Wigan’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) group, reinforcing his commitment to meeting youngsters and campaigning for gay rights,
He said: “It is very important that people have the confidence to know that there is nothing wrong with them. They should be treated as everyone else.”
As Sir Ian unveiled the star, he was presented with a painting of Mesnes Park by artist Laura Quinn, who drew Sir Ian McKellen for her contribution to Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, plus cardboard sculptures of the film characters Magneto and Gandalf that he has played, created by Mark O’Brien.
He also found time to roam through Mesnes Park. He added: “I wish my sister could be with me. She was in Wigan when it was renovated. Most of the buildings I remembered have gone.”
Lord Peter Smith, leader of Wigan Council, said: “It is an immense privilege for Wigan Council to bestow this honour on a great actor of film and theatre.
“Sir Ian McKellen is rightly one of this town’s most loved sons who has brought the magic of stage and screen to life to so many people around the world. There are few better ambassadors for the town having inspired people across Wigan borough in so many ways including his active work campaigning for equal rights for LGBT community and as a founder of Stonewall.”