SIR Ian McKellen has been named as the most influential actor in the country after raising millions for theatres.

The Bolton School old boy has worked his way to the top spot, not for his Shakespearean success but for his one-man show that took tiny theatres across the country by storm.

Sir Ian grew up in Barrow Bridge after his father secured a job as the borough engineer with the council. Last year, the actor returned to perform in the same building his father worked in.

Sir Ian took to the stage in the Albert Halls on his 80th birthday, delighting the audience in his hometown with stories from his life and career.

He refused payment for the shows, instead leaving the takings for the local venues he visited. After the shows, the actor stood with collection buckets in foyers up and down the country, raising money for theatre projects — including the refurbishment of seats in the Albert Halls.

The internationally renowned actor has now topped The Stage newspaper's list of the 100 most influential people in the world of British theatre for 2020.

The achievement is a celebration of the £4 million the actor raised in total during his tour.

The Stage's editor, Alistair Smith, spoke on the decision to award the actor the top spot: “It is hard to imagine another performer who could have pulled off such a feat, nor one who would have even thought of trying to.

"The tour was more than a celebration of Ian McKellen’s illustrious career, it was a love letter to theatre itself, and more specifically to local theatre.

"It was also an act of supreme generosity – the money he has raised will leave a very tangible legacy.

"While the argument of whether McKellen is the greatest actor of his generation is a moot point, it seems inarguable that his devotion to theatre – and especially theatre outside London – is unparalleled."

Sir Ian is the first actor to ever claim first place on the list. The list is usually topped by impresarios such as Lord Lloyd Webber and Sir Cameron Mackintosh, or the chief executives of theatre groups, according to The Stage.

Mr Smith said: "Certainly, he has done more for theatre around the UK in 2019 than anyone else. We are very lucky to have him.”