The British actors, who have known each other for more than 40 years, only became close two decades ago when they costarred in 2000’s X-Men. In the film, Stewart plays Professor Charles Xavier, or Professor X, while McKellen plays his adversary, Erik Lehnsherr, a.k.a. Magneto.
In between takes, however, the two became fast friends.
“On those kind of movies, you spend more time sitting in your trailer than you do in front of the camera,” the Star Trek star revealed on Wired’s “Web’s Most Searched Questions” YouTube series in February 2020. “So, Ian and I hung out together, drinking tea — and maybe in the afternoon, something a little stronger — and we got to know one another.”
Despite meeting years prior, while working on Tom Stoppard’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1977, the pair didn’t cement their bond until X-Men.
Since playing rivals in the sci-fi film, the friends have reprised their roles in numerous movies within the franchise: X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Professionally, the men have joined forces on stage as well.
The longtime friends starred in the Two Plays in Rep, a combination of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Gadot, beginning in 2013. They promoted the dual shows’ premiere in New York City by adventuring all over town and documenting it on social media. The duo stopped at famous food places, took photos together at Coney Island and posed with a mini Statue of Liberty.
In between their joint ventures, Stewart has continued to portray Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek franchise, his latest being in 2020’s Star Trek: Picard series. McKellen, on the other hand, has been seen in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films as Gandalf and 2017’s Beauty and the Beast.
The actors, who were both knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, have also been a big part of each other’s personal lives. When Stewart married Sunny Ozell in 2013, McKellen was the officiant.
“Happy 80th birthday wishes to @IanMcKellen,” Stewart wrote via Instagram in May 2019, celebrating his pal’s birthday. “Sunny and I are grateful for all the love over the years, whether as a dear friend, minister at our wedding, or colleague on screen and stage.”
Scroll down to relive McKellen and Stewart’s bromance over the years.