Ian McKellen

British actor Ian McKellen has criticised New Zealand Prime Minister John Key for using the word “gay” in an offensive way.

Key made the comment in a radio interview on Friday in which he teased DJ Jamie Mackay about his golfing skills, saying, “you’re never gonna make it, you’ve got that gay red top on there”.

The incident caused a furore, with Key later apologising for offending anyone but also defending his jibe and explaining that he meant to use the word to mean “weird”.

“Young people use it all the time; I don’t think many people would be offended by it but if someone is I apologise… I’m voting for gay marriage, I’m hardly homophobic,” Key said.

The openly-gay McKellen, however, was not impressed and commented on his website that “Mr Key should watch his language”.

The Lord of the Rings and X-Men star said that he’s currently touring secondary schools in the UK in a campaign against homophobia and discouraging kids from the “careless use of ‘gay’ which might make their gay friends (and teachers) feel less about themselves”. 

“So even as he supports the proposal to introduce same-gender marriages in New Zealand, I do hope John Key listens to his critics and appreciates their concern. Careless talk damages lives,” said McKellen.

The actor has spent considerable periods of time in New Zealand, first filming The Lord of the Rings trilogy and more recently making the upcoming The Hobbit films as the character of Gandalf.

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