In a recent interview, British actor Sir Ian McKellen discussed his decision to publicly come out as gay.

McKellen, 84, is best known for playing Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and Magneto in the X-Men films.

Speaking with Variety to promote his upcoming film The Critic, McKellen said that his life improved after coming out during a radio interview in 1988.

“Almost overnight everything in my life changed for the better – my relationships with people and my whole attitude toward acting changed,” McKellen said.

Elsewhere in the article, McKellen described how being closeted negatively affected his life.

“People who are not gay just simply don’t know how it damages you to be lying about what you are and ashamed of yourself,” he said. “I was brought up at a time when it was illegal for me to have sex with a man. And that was not that long ago.”

In The Critic, McKellen plays a closeted 1930s theater critic in London.

Anand Tucker, the film's director, said McKellen brought his own “lived experience” to the role.

“I don’t subscribe to the idea that you need to be gay to play a gay part,” Tucker told Variety. “But in Ian’s case, there’s something about his own lived experience that allowed him to bring a kind of urgent truth to the role. He had a deep understanding of what it means to be an outsider who is shunned for the truth of who they are.”

The Critic had its world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on September 7, 2023.