The Lord of the Rings actor said he believed the plays should instead be watched live in the theatre, in the same way that inspired him while growing up in Lancashire.
McKellen said: “I don’t think people should bother to read Shakespeare. They should see him in the theatre. Reading just reduces him to an examination subject.”He said he was inspired to act by watching Sir John Gielgud and admitted that “mortality was a daily consideration”.
Sir Anthony Hopkins, however, who stars with McKellen in a new BBC adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s play The Dresser, disagreed with his co-star.
In a joint interview, Hopkins urged actors to read “anything you can get your hands on” and revealed how he found theatre a “grind” and had no desire to return to the stage.
“I was never at ease in the theatre. For me it’s a grind. I think that at some deep level I must have asked myself all those years ago, ‘Do I really want to go through this stress night after night, after night?’ And the answer was ‘No.’ I guess I’m just bone idle.”