Ian McKellen’s acclaimed performance in King Lear is coming to America’s Public Broadcasting System – but his on-stage nude scene may not.
PBS president and chief executive Paula Kerger, who saw the play during its brief run in New York, said she was impressed by the production and recalled thinking, “This is the kind of thing people should have a chance to see.”
When Ms Kerger told a Television Critics Association meeting that the play had been filmed for PBS and would be shown next season, she was asked about Sir Ian’s full-frontal nudity and whether it would be acceptable for public television.
“Let’s talk about this in January,” Ms Kerger said, attempting to boot the issue to the next scheduled meeting of the critics’ group.
But pressed to address the question, she replied: “It’s what I think about it and what the FCC will allow,” a reference to the Federal Communications Commission that regulates broadcast channels.
Broadcasters have run foul of FCC decency standards before, facing fines for profanity and, in the case of Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl show “wardrobe malfunction” nudity.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, directed by Trevor Nunn, ran at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theatre last year.
The 69-year-old Sir Ian’s performance as Lear was lauded by The Associated Press for “expertly capturing the man’s physical and mental decline”.
The review noted that Sir Ian shed not only his sanity but also, at one point, his trousers.