Sir Ian McKellen on Speaking up For Gay Rights: “People Need to Hear That Message”


In a recent interview, geek favorite and LGBTQ+ rights supporter Sir Ian McKellen talked about turning down a lifetime achievement award for being himself and what it’s like being a clock.

Vulture has the interview up with McKellen to promote his recent film, Mr. Holmes, for its home release. The first topic broached was how open the actor has been about being gay and how that resonates with others:

Vulture: The last time you were nominated for an Oscar was in 2002, for the first Lord of the Rings movie. I remember it well, not least because you brought a hot young man as your date.

McKellen: We sat in the front row and held hands. People told us that, at least. I wasn’t aware we were holding hands … we were just out on a date, weren’t we? [Big smile.] Obviously the director of the show was gay, and saw this. Other gay people saw it. And the world becomes a better place.

Vulture: It was meaningful to me because at that point, it was rare for any famous actor to be openly gay. Have any actors who’ve since come out thanked you for it?

McKellen: Well, younger actors, yes. I think actors of my generation just think, “Oh, McKellen is bellyaching on again about gay rights. Shut up!” What they don’t realize is that there are people who need to hear that message. I don’t know about you, but it seemed to me that coming out makes one receptive to other people’s problems. You are aware that your own problems with being gay, visited on you by society, make you sympathetic to people who you’ll never meet in other countries where even worse conditions prevail. I mean, I’ve just had to turn down a lifetime achievement award at the Dubai Film Festival because it is the law of the land that you must not be gay. And a visiting gay person who makes a fuss — and by “fuss” I mean, be themselves — will be thrown in jail or deported. That’s not the happy environment in which you want to receive a present.


Director of Mr. Holmes, Bill Condon, will also be working with McKellen again soon for the live-action/CGI Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast (he’ll also rejoin The Hobbit star Luke Evans for this one, who’s playing Gaston, while McKellen is taking on the role of Cogsworth, the clock.

Filming ended over the summer and the film will be released March 17, 2017 but Vulture had a few questions about how McKellen would actually be appearing:


Vulture: And how are you playing the clock? Do they cover you in dots for motion-capture?

McKellen: No, not me. Some figures are animated, like the clock, but then the clock becomes a human being at the end. So, all I had to do was the bit where I woke up, and [the rest was voice]. Other people have dots, I think. The Beast, he had to be in one of those suits.

Vulture: They painted dots all over Dan Stevens? That’s unfortunate.

McKellen: [Laughs.] Well, that’s what they do. Fortunately I didn’t have to worry about that. I wouldn’t mind doing motion capture. It’s interesting, but it’s not come my way yet.


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