The legendary actor and gay rights activist has turned 80 on May 25. McKellen was born in Lancashire in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Both of his parents died when he was young, so he was unable ever to tell them that he was gay. He did not tell it to anyone at all because by that time it was illegal, and up until 1988 he did not confess even to himself. McKellen made his first professional acting appearance in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre, and in 1965 made his first appearance in the West End. He has won every major theatrical award in the UK, including six Laurence Olivier Awards. He is best known for his film roles as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, the X-Men films, Gods and Monsters (1998) and Richard III (1995). McKellen was knighted in 1991 for services to the performing arts. When he came out, Sir Ian went into human rights activism and was one of co-founders of one of the biggest LGBBT charities in the UK – Stonewall.