Sir Ian McKellen hits back at Damian Lewis' 'fruity' claims

Sir Ian McKellen stars in 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'. Photo / AP, Getty Images
Sir Ian McKellen stars in 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'. Photo / AP, Getty Images

Sir Ian McKellen has a bone to pick with Damian Lewis.

The Lord of the Rings star was left reeling after the Homeland actor said he did not wish to end up being known as a "fruity actor" who is famed for playing wizards.

Lewis recently said when he was in his 20s, he became concerned that if he didn't break out of the theatre in time, he "would be one of these slightly over-the-top, fruity actors who would have an illustrious career on stage, but wouldn't start getting any kind of film work until I was 50 and then start playing wizards."

Speaking to the Radio Times, McKellan responded to Lewis' remarks, telling the publication: "So he feels sorry for me, does he? Well I'm very happy, he needn't worry about me."

The X-Men actor went on to describe Lewis' statement as "a fair comment", before adding: "To rebut it: I wouldn't like to have been one of those actors who hit stardom quite early on and expected it to continue and was stuck doing scripts that I didn't particularly like just to keep the income up.

"I've always wanted to get better as an actor. And I have got better. You've only got to see my early work to see that.

"As for a fruity voice? Well, it may be a voice that is trained like an opera singer's voice: to fill a large space. It is unnatural. Actors have to be heard and their voice may therefore develop a sonorous quality that they can't quite get rid of, so you think actors are as pompous as their voice is large. I suppose Damian was thinking of that a little bit, too."

He continued: "To be allowed for the first time in your later career to play leading parts in extremely popular movies is not a situation to worry about. No-one needs to feel sorry for me or Michael Gambon (who played Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies) or anyone else who has fallen victim to success."

Sir Ian, who came out as gay at the age of 49, went on to admit that he had sympathy for gay, A-list stars who keep their sexuality a secret.

"It's true of A-lists all over the world - A-list priests, A-list politicians. What will other people think? Will people still vote for me? Will people come and see me act?

"They're warned by the people who surround them - agents and managers, who have a living to make and are worried that the actor will get pigeonholed."

"I don't think the audience gives a damn," he added. "You don't have to be straight to play Gandalf. Anyway, who says that Gandalf isn't gay? I loved it when JK Rowling said that Dumbledore was gay."

He also revealed during the interview that the Foreign Office had warned him not to travel to Russia, because of the country's stringent laws on homosexuality.

"That's why I can't go to Russia... They couldn't protect me from those laws. Two and a half hours from London! In the land of Tchaikovsky, Diaghilev, Rudolf Nureyev - gay artists whose sexuality informed their work," he said.

McKellen is currently starring in two plays on Broadway: Harold Pinter's No Man's Land and Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot.

- Independent

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