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Sir Ian McKellen Rejects Calls For Only Gay Actors To Play Gay Roles

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Sir Ian McKellen Rejects Calls For Only Gay Actors To Play Gay Roles

Sir Ian McKellen has rejected calls for only gay actors to play gay roles.

In a recent hour long interview, McKellen discussed his career, the notion that only gay actors should play gay roles and his support for gender-neutral awards.

McKellen is perhaps best known for his roles in The Lord of the Rings franchise and X-Men.

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The actor came out as gay publicly in 1998 and has championed LGBTQ+ rights ever since.

Ian McKellen (Alamy)
Ian McKellen (Alamy)

When speaking to Amol Rajan as part of the presenter's new series on BBC2, McKellen addressed the topic.

The pair were speaking about Dame Helen Mirren being cast in the role of Israel's first female leader, Golda Meir, which has been the subject of discussion recently as Mirren is not Jewish.

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Speaking of the matter, McKellen said he agreed with Mirren's casting and that he thought a non-Jewish person could play a Jewish person.

He said, 'There are two things – is the argument that a gentile cannot play a Jew, and is the argument therefore that a Jew cannot play a gentile?'

He then linked this to the argument about gay actors only playing gay roles.

'Is the argument that a straight man cannot play a gay part, and if so, does that mean I can't play straight parts and I'm not allowed to explore the fascinating subject of heterosexuality in Macbeth? Surely not. We're acting. We're pretending.'

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Ian McKellen (Alamy)
Ian McKellen (Alamy)

Later in the interview, McKellen also broached the topics of awards ceremonies and whether the categories should be genderless, to which he 'absolutely' agreed.

He said that while he thought it was 'stupid' to even try to compare the performances of one actor with another at awards, he noted that 'if you're going to have the process then of course, non-gender, absolutely'.

McKellen has won and been nominated for a host of awards throughout his career, including a nomination for Best Actor at the 1999 Academy Awards for his role in Gods and Monsters.

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He has won also won a Golden Globe, a Tony Award and multiple Olivier Awards.

McKellen went on in the interview to reject the suggestion that institutionalised prejudice was the reason for no gay actors having won the award for Best Actor at the Oscars.

He argued that instead it was because 'there aren't very many of them, I mean openly gay'.

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Featured Image Credit: New Line Cinema/BBC

Topics: Celebrity, Film and TV, BBC

Shola Lee
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