Ian McKellen received his first Oscar nomination for portraying homosexual movie director James Whale in Gods and Monsters.
Ian Mckellen portrays James Whale throughout the film seemingly without challenge. He shows an instant ease with the role instantly. He instantly is comfortable in the role from the first moment he is on the screen. This relaxation in this role is essential for its effectiveness. Whale is a homosexual who still in fact tries to attempt being active, even if his attempts are many times covert, in a slight way to get some sort of thrill for himself. This is some ways an important aspect of this character, which McKellen never exploits in his performance, but rather makes it the natural way Whale is and wants to be. This lusting from Whale is not overdone to be overly creepy, nor is it underdone to seem some overly romantic idea, instead McKellen find the right realistic tone which works well.
Another aspect of Whale is his enormous past, both his painful memories of his wartime, and childhood experiences, but also that of his more glorious days as a successful film artist. McKellen again excels in his scenes showing Whale's love for his art and his artistry. He finds the perfect note to convey this though, since Whale does not simply love his whole artistry. He shows a distinct hatred for the treatment of some of his work, and how his film making ended. Also a distaste for only being remembered for his monster pictures. He though still shows a true admiration for what he has done, and shows a sense of an accomplishment of his work. McKellen balances these feelings well, also Whale as he speaks of these films states everything as the real director of the film, which McKellen brings the right vivid quality to.
His most dramatic moments are when Whale thinks about his past. McKellen really excels here because the past is shown to us, therefore he could have simply spoke of it and done nothing else but McKellen shows Whale own feelings on the matters mostly without words. He conveys both the happiness in his past with the pain of his losses exceedingly well. McKellen tells of these stories always with the right passive passion in a way that rings true to the character. McKellen brings out all his past, his current lusts, and pains the most in his final moments. The final scene where he tries to bring his gardener Clay Boone (Brendan Frasier) to kill him by sexually advancing on him. McKellen is terrific in this penultimate scene, mixing the right intensity in his attempts to enrage the man to killing, along with showing his past once more, and his current pain he wants to end. It is a odd scenes in many ways but McKellen stays realistic and effective in this scene just as he is throughout the film.