Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen has said that being gay and closeted helped him become a better actor because he spent so many years “pretending to be someone else”.

The acclaimed 73-year-old star made the comment while speaking to high school pupils at the Acland Burleigh School in north London, as part of a campaign against anti-gay bullying in school.

He told the young audience that while he always knew he was gay, he was fearful of coming out until his 40s.

“There was no Graham Norton on the television at that time, no gay MPs, no-one talking about gay rights on the radio. So I dealt with it my trying to cut that part of myself off, to hide myself, to choke a part of me,” he said.

“When you are made to feel you are so wrong for being who you are, that’s what you do. I think that’s why so many great British actors are gay – we spent so long pretending to be straight, to be someone else, that eventually we became very good at it.”

The actor added that he “wished that every child, every teacher, every person in this room can be free to be who they are, whatever their sexual orientation”.

McKellen is best known for his roles as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and Magneto in the X-Men films. He will reprise the character of Gandalf in the upcoming film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

McKellen came out as gay in 1988 on BBC Radio, prompted by his concerns about the controversial Section 28 anti-gay law, which was being considered by the British Parliament at the time.

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