Ian mckellen and his first serious partner, Brian Taylor, a history teacher from Bolton, began their relationship in 1964. It lasted for eight years, ending in 1972. They lived in London, where McKellen continued to pursue his career as an actor. For over a decade, he has lived in a five-story Victorian conversion in Narrow Street, Limehouse. In 1978 he met his second partner, Sean Mathias, at the Edinburgh Festival. This relationship lasted until 1988. According to Mathias, the ten-year love affair was tempestuous, with conflicts over McKellen’s success in acting versus Mathias’s somewhat less-successful career. Mathias later directed McKellen in Waiting For Godot at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2009. The pair entered into business partnership with Evgeny Lebedev, purchasing the lease on The Grapes public house in Narrow Street.
A friend of actor Ian Charleson and an admirer of his work, McKellen contributed an entire chapter to the 1990 book, For Ian Charleson: A Tribute.
In the late 1980s, McKellen lost his appetite for meat except for fish, and so mostly excludes it from his diet. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006.
He has a tattoo of the Elvish number nine, written using Tengwar, on his shoulder in reference to his involvement in the Lord of the Rings and the fact that his character was one of the original nine companions of the Fellowship of the Ring. The other actors of “The Fellowship” (Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Sean Bean, Dominic Monaghan, and Viggo Mortensen) have the same tattoo. John Rhys-Davies, whose character was also one of the original nine companions, arranged for his stunt double to get the tattoo instead