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Ian McKellen criticizes Hollywood�s treatment of gay and lesbian actors

Ross von Metzke | February 16, 2006

Ian McKellen
HOLLYWOOD — One of Hollywood�s few openly gay actors is criticizing the film industry for its �old fashioned� approach to gay and lesbian actors.

Two time Academy Award nominee Ian McKellen, who has built a successful career as a character actor in both gay and straight themed projects, says that despite the success of award winning gay films including Brokeback Mountain and Capote, the film industry is still failing to allow gay actors to come out of the closet.

�The film industry is very old-fashioned in California,� McKellen said at the Berlin Film Festival at the weekend, where he was picking up a Lifetime Achievement award. �It's very, very, very difficult for an American actor who wants a film career to be open about his sexuality. It's even more difficult for a woman if she's lesbian.�

The star, who has enjoyed his greatest career successes while out of the closet, has long campaigned for gay rights.

�It's very distressing to me that that should be the case,� he said.

This is not the first time McKellen has publicly criticized the film industry for its homophobia. Last summer he urged to closeted actors that their craft would improve if they were open about their sexuality.

�I became a better actor, and my film career took off in a way that I couldn't have expected,� he said in August. �You can't lie about something so central to yourself without harming yourself. That's why I can say to other actors: if you really want to be a good actor and a successful one, and you�re gay, let everybody know about it.�

In 2003, McKellen said that actors who choose not to come out were sending a �dreadful message� to their audiences.

"It is extremely sad, but no major actors are happy to say they are gay,� McKellen said at the time. �They are doing it and cannot be happy with themselves. They are sending a dreadful message to their fans.�

McKellen said in the same speech that studio executives should be ashamed of themselves for telling gay stars they will lose jobs for coming out.

McKellen was nominated for an Academy Award for his work as gay Frankenstein director James Whale in 1998�s Gods & Monsters. Later, he received a Best Supporting Actor nod for his work in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

McKellen will be seen in theatres later this year in the third installment of the X-Men series. – Gay Link Content

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