Sir Ian McKellen made a choice when he signed on for Cats. It was a conscious decision to portray Gus the Theatre Cat, which consigned the thespian to a furry CGI makeover and an acting credit alongside James Corden. He knew all of this.
What he didn’t choose was the audience response to early footage of the film, which spanned from confusion to revulsion. In case you missed it, the first trailer for Cats, which dropped in July, forced viewers to contend with Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson, and Jennifer Hudson as half-baked Animorphs. Asking the movie’s stars to defend those visuals borders on cruel.
Yet here we are, in a world where 80-year-old McKellen was asked for his opinion on the most confronting Hollywood visuals since Hereditary.
Ian McKellen should not have to do this.
“The stage show, Cats, was not about a lot of people being convincing as cats, but it was about human beings discovering their cat-like nature,” McKellen told Entertainment Tonight at a recent New York City press event. “And it was hugely successful.”
McKellen’s thesis – that the not-quite-cat, not-quite-human presentation is spiritually central Cats – is perhaps the most charitable assessment he could make about the project.
“They’re people playing cats, and that is the notion of the film, and it’s been done very wittingly, I think, and particularly the dancers,” McKellen added.
Again, he shouldn’t be asked to make that statement in the first place.
The legend said seeing young stars like Taylor Swift “discovering the cat in them” was enough to make his jaw drop, another concession from the multiple six-time Laurence Olivier Award-winner.
Bless Ian McKellen, and may God have mercy on audiences when Cats hits Aussie cinema screens on Boxing Day.