The Lord of the Rings star, 76, reveals he enjoyed an innocent holiday romance with a girl named Wendy when he was a kid, years before realising he was gay, and they kept in touch after the vacation by sending one another letters in the mail.

During an appearance on U.S. morning show The View on Wednesday (15Jul15), he recalled, "I had a straight experience (once)... I must tell you about Wendy... She was nine and I was eight and we held hands by the sea and such, and then we parted after the holiday and we wrote letters to each other."

He recently ran into Wendy outside London's National Theatre and inquired about the love notes in the hopes of sharing them in his autobiography, but was saddened to hear they had long been discarded.

MCKellen said, "I was standing at the National Theatre the other day, 64 years after this event, and this little old lady, I could see her coming to me. I was thinking, 'Oh dear, what does she want?' and she said, 'Hello Ian, I'm Wendy...'"

The actor continued, "I said, 'We were rather in love, weren't we?' She said, 'Oh, yes', and I said, 'Didn't we write letters to each other?' and she said, 'Yes, we did.'

"I was thinking of writing my memoirs so I said, 'Do you have any of the letters that I wrote to you?' She said, 'Oh, yes, I kept them, but then I burnt them on the day of my marriage', so God knows what was in those letters!"

MCKellen reportedly signed a $1.6 million (£1 million) deal with publishers Hachette to pen his life story after turning down offers for years.

The as-yet-untitled book is expected to include details about how he agonised over revealing his homosexuality, amid fears it would damage his career. He eventually 'came out' as a gay man in 1988.