Long considered to be one of the greatest British stage actors of all time, Sir Ian McKellen initially had surprising difficulty translating his immense talents to film and television. After spending his youth absorbing the theatre as a spectator and later performer, he emerged from the prestigious University of Cambridge as a celebrated actor, performing all the major Shakespeare roles while making an auspicious professional debut in “A Man for All Seasons” (1961). He spent the ensuing decades amassing an impressive résumé and accumulating awards, but had very little to show on the screen, save for several British made-for-television movies and a few under-performing films. Deciding to make his own luck, McKellen produced and starred in a 1930s-set adaptation of “Richard III” (1995), in which he delivered a sterling performance that led to an Oscar-nominated turn in “Gods and Monsters” (1998). Hollywood was finally forced to stand up and take notice. Though it took until he reached his sixties, McKellen began appearing in huge blockbusters, including all three installments of “The Lord of the Rings” (2001-03), “X-Men” (2000, 2003, 2006) and “The Hobbit” (2012-14) franchises.