In a new biography, actor Sir Ian
McKellen discusses his decision to come out gay at 49.
The 80-year-old McKellen, who first
spoke publicly about his sexuality during an interview with the BBC
in 1988, is best known for playing Gandalf in The Lord of the
Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and Magneto in the X-Men
In the upcoming biography Ian
McKellen: A Biography by Garry O'Connor from St. Martin's Press,
McKellen said that he came out to become an advocate for the LGBT
“I didn't really know who I was – a
closeted gay,” he said.
McKellen met O'Connor while they were
studying at Cambridge University in 1958. O'Connor has since directed
the actor in various plays.
“Cambridge was great for me … all
the many parts I had played there, as I loved for the first time
going out in public and displaying my emotions. I enjoyed disguising
myself as a closeted gay boy,” he said.
McKellen said that while he was out to
close friends and colleagues, he worried how being open about his
sexuality would affect his career. Additionally, gay sex was a crime
in England until 1967, though certain conditions not imposed on
heterosexual couples remained. It wasn't until 2003 that the age of
consent was lowered from 21 to 16 for gay men and other conditions
related to privacy were removed.
After coming out, McKellen said that
his career flourished as he became an outspoken advocate for LGBT
“He had left the dark closet of
secrecy for self-exposure and liberation,” O'Connor wrote. “This
galvanized him, energized him in a direction he had never thought
himself capable of.”
McKellen currently appears opposite
Helen Mirren in The Good Liar.