British actor Sir Ian McKellen says he was late in coming around to believing in the gay rights movement.

The 72-year-old Academy Award-nominated McKellen is the subject of one of four Gay Times covers celebrating the 400th issue of the magazine.

McKellen, who was knighted in 1991 for services for the performing arts, is best know for playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy and Magneto in the X-Men films.

In 1988, McKellen announced he was gay in the pages of Gay Times and went to work advocating against Section 28, the UK legislation that banned any positive discussion of homosexuality in schools. It was not fully repealed until 2003.

His visibility made a difference, but McKellen says he came late to gay rights.

“I was a late convert to the idea that something could be done. What needed to be done was pretty obvious, in that there were far too many laws on the stature books that put gay people at a disadvantage. I'd grown up with them being there. Although they'd been tinkered with a little bit, so one sensed that the world could change,” he said.