The Lord of the Rings star, who recently turned 76, admits he now struggles to memorise his scripts and it took him eight months to remember the words to 2013 Broadway production No Man's Land, and six months to prepare for two-hour televised play The Dresser.

MCKellen tells Britain's Radio Times magazine, "When I was a young man, people would ask how I remembered my lines, and I'd think, 'That's the easy part!'... Well, these days it's one of the problems. I do find myself thinking, 'How am I going to remember it?'

"There are times in a life when the memory really does get worse and the mind doesn't work as it should. And if you were to get to the stage where you couldn't remember anything at all, well, that would be very distressing. Fortunately, I'm not there yet."