Breaking Baz: Ian McKellen Eyes Return To “Danger Free” Work On Movie ‘The Critic’ Following Fall From West End Stage

EXCLUSIVE: With Ian McKellen on the mend after wrist and neck injuries he suffered when he fell from the stage during a performance of swashbuckling Shakespearean drama Player Kings in London’s West End, the beloved star is eying a return to work.

No, the knighted thespian won’t be treading the boards anytime soon, but Deadline can reveal that the actor will do some last-minute “danger free“ post-production voice work for murder mystery movie The Critic in which McKellen (The Lord of the Rings, X-Men) stars as Jimmy Esrkine, a puffed up, once great first-night drama reviewer. McKellen stars alongside Gemma Arterton (Funny Woman, The King’s Man) as Nina Land, a struggling West End ingénue who witnesses something she shouldn’t have seen.

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Mark Strong, Alfred Enoch, Lesley Manville, Ben Barnes and Romona Garai co-star.

Lionsgate UK struck a distribution deal with Zygi Kamasa’s True Brit Entertainment to release the film in UK and Irish theaters on September 13.

The film is directed by Anand Tucker (Hilary & Jackie) from a screenplay by Patrick Marber (Closer, Notes On A Scandal) who adapted writer and producer Anthony Quinn’s 2015 novel Curtain Call, a seedy tale set in a 1930s London populated by show-girls, shadowy establishment figures and mucky men with fingers in murky pies. Every character gets metaphorically slimed with backstage greasepaint.

The Critic premiered at TIFF where it received mixed notices from, well, the critics. I saw it there too, and could have done with seeing more of McKellen as the rapacious reviewer.

Alfred Enoch and Ian McKellen in ‘The Critic’
Alfred Enoch and Ian McKellen in ‘The Critic’

Marber acknowledged that the movie required some restructuring and that Kamasa “came in and said ‘look, I really like this, do some work on it and let’s get it right’. I tell you what, he’s [Kamasa] been brilliant.”

“Well, we’ve now done some work on it,” the playwright, screenwriter and director revealed.

“Its been massively re-edited and revised since Toronto. And now, I think it’s really great. McKellen’s giving an incredible performance, and Gemma’s being brilliant. It’s funny, and it’s very dark, and I hope it will have some good life out there.”

Asked to clarify what has been done so far, Marber responded that “there were some pickups here and there, but really it was just taking another look at it and learning from Toronto and how it played and where it was strong and where it was weak, and pulling the thing together.”

He likened the process “to doing what you would normally do with a play out of town. And it’s a very rare you get this opportunity, and that’s down to Zygi.”

However, Marber told us “it’s not ready yet” and that there’s still work to do.

He said that he’s “literally writing some ADR lines and VO as we speak, so we haven’t delivered it yet, but it will be fully in the can within the next three weeks, ready for release.”

Marber said that McKellen will “get the call” as soon “as I’ve written it. Once the pen touches paper, Ian will get a call W e will give him peace until it’s written. It’ll be done in the next two or three weeks. It’s danger free and Ian’s fine to do it.”

McKellen, 85, will relish the opportunity to get back into the thick of it, even if it’s just to record some lines in a recording studio in Soho.

Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen

Following medical advice, McKellen with “the greatest reluctance” withdrew from continuing his starring role as Sir John Falstaff following his fall from the Noel Coward Theatre’s stage on June 17. The Player Kings began a UK national tour at the Bristol Hippodrome yesterday. After its run there, the show, which is adapted from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 by Robert Icke, will visit theaters in Birmingham, Norwich and Newcastle, with McKellen’s understudy David Semark stepping in to play Falstaff. Toheeb Jimoh  (Ted Lasso, Anthony) and Richard Coyle (The Gathering, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore) also star.

There are strong rumors swirling around out there that the indefatigable McKellen will make an appearance in director Shawn Levy’s eagerly awaited Marvel summer blockbuster Deadpool & Wolverine starring Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, opening in theaters on July 26.

Marber, who won a Tony Award for directing Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece play Leopoldstadt on Broadway, is also preparing to direct the European premiere of Nathan Englander’s adaptation of his prize-winning short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. It will star The West Wing and Scandal actor Joshua Malina. Show will run October 4-November 23 at the Marylebone Theatre in London.

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