Ian McKellen joins Oscars diversity fray over gay actors

Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen

Openly gay acting icon Ian McKellen has questioned why no openly gay actor has ever won an Oscar for best actor.

The continued lack of racial diversity in the Oscars’ acting category came to a head this year, with luminaries such as Spike Lee, and Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband Will Smith announcing a boycott of the upcoming awards.

Speaking to The Guardian, McKellen agreed that black actors were “being ill-treated and underestimated” but said that there was a similar reality for gay actors.

“No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance,” he commented.

Jodie Foster paved the way for LGBT actresses after she won best actress in 1988 ( The Accused) and 1991 (Silence of the Lambs) but she was not out at the time and still remains elusive about her sexuality.

As we pointed out in a recent article, straight actors like William Hurt, Tom Hanks, Sean Penn and Philip Seymour Hoffman are among those who have been honoured for playing gay roles.

“How clever, how clever,” said McKellen. “What about giving me one for playing a straight man?” he asked.

The 76-year-old Lord of the Rings and X-Men star has been twice nominated for best actor but has never won. “My speech has been in two jackets … ‘I’m proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar.’ I’ve had to put it back in my pocket twice,” revealed McKellen.

In response to the diversity furore, the Academy Awards has announced a raft of changes to its membership in an effort to become more racially inclusive and representative.

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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