The Morgan Stanley Great Briton 2007 shortlist has been revealed in the Daily Telegraph, with two gay men among the shortlist of 21.
Thousands of public nominations were whittled down by a series of expert panel to leave just three names in each of the awards seven categories.
Actor Sir Ian McKellen joined author JK Rowling and artist Damian Hirst on the Arts shortlist.
Currently staring as King Lear for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the panel of judges, which includes Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, called Sir Ian “one of the last great actors” with a “quality of acting that you have to be awed by.”
Actor, writer and TV presenter Stephen Fry, meanwhile, was nominated in the category of Creative Industries, alongside Michael Boyd, artistic director of the RSC, and Jonathan Ive, the senior vice president of industrial design at Apple Inc.
Praised as “the epitome of everything British, both modern and old,” Fry’s was recently nominated for Best Entertainment Performance and Best Factual Series (Secret Life of the Manic Depressive) at the 2007 British Academy Television Awards.
After rising to fame as one half of comedy act Fry and Laurie, recent years have heard him speak candidly about a long-standing battle with bipolar depression.
Other categories are Environment, Sport, Campaigning and Public Life, Science and Innovation, and Business.
Nominees include Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and the director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti.
The seven category winners and overall Morgan Stanley Great Briton will be announced at a gala dinner in London next month.
To see the full list of nominations and judges