Sir Ian McKellen is a legend of the film industry and an icon for the LGBT community. The 76-year-old actor came out in 1988 and that changed his life completely. He was twice nominated at the Academy Awards for his roles in Gods and Monsters and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but he is still hoping he will win an award with his latest movie, Mr. Holmes.
He is running a campaign to be nominated and last week, during his meeting with the Academy members McKellen performed a monologue about his career and his female co-stars. He also talked about how coming out changed his life for better but didn’t change his acting.
Among his favorite actresses he mentioned Halle Berry, his co-star from X-Men. “I never saw Halle in between movies, but we caught up each time as if we were brother and sister,” he said.
In X-Men McKellen played the role of Magneto, a villainous character, and he thinks the franchise is a pleasure for gay men:
“X-Men was a gay man’s delight, because it was full of the most amazing divas,” McKellen said.
And another X-Men female co-star he talked about is Ellen Page. He thinks that after coming out Ellen regained her voice on-screen and off-screen as well.
“The thing about Ellen was that she spoke very quietly,” McKellen said. “Now I know that’s the fashion in movies today – there’s far too much whispering going on in films. Ellen was speaking very quietly for the benefit of the camera. I thought: ‘This girl’s nervous! If she was a bit more confident, she’d be speaking a bit louder maybe.”
“Lo and behold she comes out as gay woman, and my God has she found her voice. Good on you, Ellen. From afar now, I admire her. Wherever she is, she’s got my congratulations and love.”
After coming out, the actor felt that the gay community was expecting a change in his attitude, but he felt differently and mostly because of his loyalty to acting:
“When I came out as a gay man, it was expected by some gay activists that my whole attitude to life would change, and I’d become a queer artist and only do things with gay themes. I said: ‘No, no.’ Heterosexuality is far too interesting a phenomenon to be ignored.”
However, in an interview for Out Magazine he talked about how coming out made him more receptive and aware:
“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.”
Revealing his sexuality played a major role in shaping his journey as an actor and as a human being. Everything made sense after he came out, and this is a signal to people who hesitate disclosing their sexuality, a “warning” that everything gets better when you reveal who you are:
“When there was nobody in the world I minded knowing I was gay, everything made sense. Relationships made sense, family made sense, and acting became not about disguise, but about revelation.”