November 14, 2019

LONDON — In 2001, Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren were rehearsing a production of August Strindberg’s “The Dance of Death” at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York City. A week before the previews opened, the events of Sept. 11 shook the city and its inhabitants to the core. But the play continued on.

“We opened the next week, at a time when you couldn’t move off Manhattan,” says McKellen, sitting with Mirren in the basement room of a restaurant in Hackney where the pair filmed a scene for their new movie “The Good Liar” last fall. “All the bridges were closed. It was extraordinary. You couldn’t move off, you couldn’t come in. Manhattan was a world by itself.”

“And it was an amazing time to be there,” Mirren jumps in. “I’m so honored I was there at that time, honestly. It was so moving and impressive. I thought the New Yorkers were incredible. They just got on it with it in the most amazing way.”

“You might have thought this was a play they would have avoided, but no,” McKellen continues. “We were the latest play on and the locals, having seen all the old hits years ago, came. Those other theaters were empty because the tourists couldn’t come. You could walk into ‘The Producers’ to see Nathan Lane, but you couldn’t get a ticket to see us because it was the locals. They had the blitz spirit. They were going to go on and go to the theater in New York. And we became the center of that need.”

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