Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ian McKeenan Sighting at San Sebastian Film Festival

It seems like every time we come to Europe, we end up spotting a celebrity serendipitously.

Two years ago, we bumped into Rod Stewart having dinner with a small private group on the outdoor terrace behind the Hotel Palazzo Sasso in Ravello Italy. I was too dumbstruck to even think of taking a picture.

Last year, I was watching the final round of the British Open golf tournament in Murphy's Bar in Fira, Santorini with one other guy at 3p in the afternoon. Only later, after he left, did I discover it was John Stamos. He even introduced himself as John Stamos but that didn't mean anything to me (having never watched Full House), much to the dismay of my female friends back home!

This year is not quite as interesting but we were in San Sebastian yesterday, which is a very upscale beach town just across the border in Spain. In fact, I was told it is the most expensive city in Spain. It certainly has some amazing beaches and buildings.

It also has the San Sebastian Film Festival (the 57th edition this year), which is why my sister booked her villa in Biarritz, France 30 minutes north -- there were no good rooms left in San Sebastian.

While walking around, we noticed a crowd standing behind retaining rails on both sides of the entrance of a large building (later determined to be the Hotel Maria Cristina, apparently as grand a hotel as you will find anywhere) on the river. There were many people with professional video cameras. I also spotted an interview being conducted on the sidewalk overlooking the river across the street. Finally, there was a red carpet lining the sidewalk leading to the building.

Hmmm... being an astute person, I deduced something, or someone, important was happening. And I wanted to know what, or who, this important happening was.

I found a spot across the street from the entrance to the building and waited. A few minutes later a black car arrived and an older gentleman in a brim hat stepped out and waved to the small crowd, was greeted affectionately by several people, and then proceeded to walk over to the enthusiastic throng and sign autographs.

I began asking people near me who this man was and, through their broken English, determined it was Ian McKellen -- Sir Ian McKellen to be precise -- longtime English stage and film actor, most recently known for playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Sir Leigh Teabing in The DaVinci Code. Official Ian McKellen Website.

I have since discovered that he was present to receive the Donostia Award for lifetime achievement (click here).

Pretty good timing huh? We just happened on the location where the person receiving the lifetime achievement award at the film festival was due to arrive in minutes.

Entrance to Hotel Maria Cristina with crowd waiting on both sides

Interview with someone important? One guy has a pink Mary Poppins logo on his shirt.

McKellen Arrives

McKellen Signs Autographs

Waves to crowd as he enters hotel

Amanda, Zachary, Linda, Zoe, Joe

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