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Sir Ian simply had an epiphany as he prepared to take on the great Shakespearean role for the first time -- that the aged king likely had had two wives, the first bearing him his eldest daughters, now so plotting and duplicitous, and the second giving him sweet Cordelia, the youngest.
Oh, yes, that entrance: Shakespeare would have had a hard time making it in Hollywood, given how he offers barely a hint of what the movie world considers a necessary first act, the scenes acquainting us with the main characters and their lives before the complication arises.
Despair and tumult follow and, eventually, death to all of them. But that still leaves the theater troupe room to establish something before the first word is uttered.
Thus do we understand before the first line of Shakespearean dialogue that this Lear was not only a warrior king but a priest king, though his faith in the gods will have eroded by the time he finds himself wandering out in that storm and sees fit -- he and year-old Ian McKellen -- to drop his pants. As McKellen drops his pants, he tries to remove his shirt too, but fails -- it gets stuck over his head.
That means his face is obscured even as other parts are bared, all while Shakespeare is offering a bit of blasphemy hundreds of years before Darwin. But must not the wise old actor worry whether he will.