Sir Ian McKellen on Hollywood's LGBTQ Inclusion Problem: 'Gay Men Don't Exist'

Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images for Cannes Lions
Sir Ian McKellen attends the Cannes Lions Festival 2017 on June 21, 2017 in Cannes, France. 

Sir Ian McKellen, famous for his roles in Lord of the Rings and the X-Men franchise, is openly gay, has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and has spoken candidly about his sexuality for the last 30 years.

The British actor was recently asked about his thoughts on the fact that Dumbledore, a character he is often mistaken for having played in the Harry Potter franchise, will not be directly referred to as gay in the upcoming spin-off film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. “Isn’t he?” McKellen said in a recent interview with Time Out London. “That’s a pity.”

He went on to say that while the news was disappointing, he wasn’t surprised, since Hollywood has a track record of ignoring social issues on a regular basis. “Nobody looks to Hollywood for social commentary, do they?” he asked, before delivering a scathing retort: “They only recently discovered that there were black people in the world. Hollywood has mistreated women in every possible way throughout its history.”

McKellen continued, saying that queerness was yet another facet of life that Hollywood has regularly decided to ignore. “Gay men don’t exist,” he said. “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 actor's point about a lack of representation is echoed by a recent report by GLAAD. According to the organization’s annual Studio Responsibility Index, there were only 14 major studio films in 2017 that featured LGBTQ-identifying characters, a significant step down from 2016.

The actor also discussed the fact that he was once denied a role due to the fact that he was gay. Recounting a story of when he auditioned for Harold Pinter’s 1983 film Betrayal, McKellen said that producer Sam Speigel asked him if he would be taking his family with him on a trip to New York.

“I said, “I don’t have a family, I’m gay.” I think it was the first time I came out to anyone,” McKellen said. “Well, I was out of that office in two minutes. It took Pinter 25 years to apologise for not sticking up for me.”