Who’s That Vampire?

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4rYs2p_-vM”]

A lonesome Nosferatu-like vampire stars in this decades-old Pet Shop Boys music video—a somewhat unusual appearance in a love song, but that’s nothing compared to the identity of the actor playing him.

The song, “Heart,” appeared on their best-selling 1987 album, Actually. The single was released on March 21, 1988 and the music video was directed by Jack Bond, who also made the band’s 1987 film, It Couldn’t Happen Here. Now, see if you can guess who the actor is:

Vampire in Heart
Who’s that vampire? (EMI/YouTube)

Give up? As Wikipedia reveals (and the Pet Shop Boys, themselves, via Twitter) it’s noneother than Oscar-nominated actor, Ian McKellen (b. 1939)—who, despite a long, illustrious career on stage and screen—is probably now best-known for starring as Magneto in several X-Men films and Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Magneto vs. Gandalf
Left: Ian McKellen as Magneto. (20th Century Fox via Spinoff Online). Right: Ian McKellen as Gandalf. (New Line Cinema via Occam’s Razor)

I haven’t been able to find much on McKellen’s involvement in the music video, but I was able to find a little background info via an “unofficial Web site” called Absolutely Pet Shop Boys under its “1988 – March” entry:

A different mix of ‘Heart’ is released as a single on March 21st and reaches #1 in the UK. “It’s a real disco song – the idea of ‘heartbeat’ the beat of the record and the beat of your heart. It’s actually pretty corny, to be honest, but I think the words are quite sweet and sincere”. The video, shot in Yugoslavia, was a resetting of the Dracula story with Ian McKellen in the title role.

Meanwhile, Wayne Studer, who does an “Interpretation and analysis of every song by Pet Shop Boys” has the following to say about the tune and its accompanying and music video:

Thematically, “Heart” is simply a confession, “quite sweet and sincere” according to Neil [Tennant], of how deeply in love the narrator is—his “heart starts missing a beat” every time he sees the object of his affections. Neil has also described it as “a very warm song,” and Chris [Lowe] has noted that it’s “not ironic at all.”

To promote the single (the fourth and final one released from Actually), the Pet Shop Boys starred in what is perhaps their most cinematic short-form video, featuring Ian McKellen as a rather creepy vampire closely modeled on Dracula. The plot of the video is very loosely based on the 1926 [sic] silent film classic Nosferatu, itself based on Dracula. . . . The vampire seduces Neil’s young bride and absconds with her, leaving Neil, as he has put it, “bitter and twisted”—an excellent example of that genre of elaborate videos that have only a tenuous connection to the song itself.

I’d like to thank my good friend, Angie Watkins, for introducing me to this clip via her Facebook group, “HIGHGATE! HIGHGATE! HIGHGATE!” and for leading me on the (admittedly brief) search for the vampire’s identity.


  1. Ian Mc Kellen has been active in gay rights for decades, and fronted Gay Lib in the 80’s. The Pet Shop Boys have been centerpiece gay band in the UK for about the same amount of time. McKellen has always done comic and camp appearances at Pride and in connection with gay bands: his recent collaboration with Scissor Sisters on the dance track ‘Invisible Light’ was another standout. This was another tongue-in-cheek performance: his vampire in the video might as well be singing to Tennant, with the woman used as a proxy, and with the vampire imagery used in its customary was as a way of hinting at forbidden attraction.

Comments are closed.