Sir Ian McKellen is one of the most famous out gay actors in Hollywood, as well as a bull-headed champion of the LGBTQ community, often speaking up for queer people when no one else will. He never holds back, and in a new candid interview, he speaks scathingly about Hollywood’s antiquated timidity surrounding LGBTQ people both on-screen and off.
The 78-year-old British actor sat down with Time Out and expressed his disappointment in his industry’s unwillingness to tell stories about queer people, people of color, women, or any combination of such.
“Well, nobody looks to Hollywood for social commentary, do they? They only recently discovered that there were black people in the world,” McKellen snapped. “Hollywood has mistreated women in every possible way throughout its history. Gay men don’t exist.”
He’s not far off: GLAAD releasedits 2018 Studio Responsibility Index on Tuesday, which tracks major movie studios’ progress, or often lack thereof, in inclusivity. The results showed 12.8 percent of mainstream films in 2017 contained LGBTQ characters. 64 percent of those characters were gay men, and were also predominantly white.
Long ago, McKellen was approached to play Harry Potter‘s Dumbledore, who author J.K. Rowling claims is a gay character, a fact that didn’t make it onscreen. And in the new Fantastic Beasts series, which depicts Dumbledore in his younger years, the erasure continues.
McKellen starred in 1998’s Gods and Monsters, a 1950s period film in in which he played gay director James Whale. He believes that movie opened doors for queer people in Hollywood, but barely. “Gods and Monsters, I think, was the beginning of Hollywood admitting that there were gay people knocking around, even though half of Hollywood is gay.”
The iconic actor revealed that being publicly out cost him a role in his career. “Harold Pinter wanted me to be in a film of his [1983’s Betrayal] and he took me to meet the producer, Sam Spiegel,” he recalled. “We sat in Spiegel’s office and I happened to say that I was going to New York. He said, ‘Will you be taking the family?’ And I said, ‘I don’t have a family, I’m gay.’ I think it was the first time I came out to anyone. Well, I was out of that office in two minutes. It took Pinter 25 years to apologize for not sticking up for me. But young actors in London now have all been out for years. That’s the future.”
Sir Ian McKellen came out in 1988 and was knighted by the queen of England three years later for his contributions to the performing arts.
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