Sir Ian McKellen Details Struggles as a Gay Youth in New Short Film
Sir Ian McKellen has opened up about the difficulties he faced growing up gay in a new short film.
The X-Men actor did not come out publicly until 1988, but he was aware of his sexuality from a young age, and in filmmaker Joe Stephenson’s new four-minute movie, he explains he kept his sexuality a secret.
“Gay people, homosexuals, conducted their lives as secretly as possible,” he says “There was nobody who was out… When my own attraction to other boys was taking place, it seemed very natural to me… I was aware that it didn’t really fit in with what everybody else had been doing.”
McKellen reveals one of the reasons he pursued a career in acting was because he hoped he would meet other gay actors.
“It was an easy way to do that,” he adds.
In the short film, which is being featured at London’s Tate Britain museum as part of its Queer British Art 1861-1967 exhibit, the 77-year-old admits he wasn’t always so vocal about his sexuality, but he doesn’t want modern gay youths to feel ashamed.
“One of the reasons I talk about being gay is because I don’t want today’s children not to enjoy their sexuality,” he says. “Be aware of it, think about it, puzzle about it, discuss it, have it out there – because it is central to what you are.”
McKellen has been vocal about the importance of “coming out” in the past, and in 2015, he urged other actors to make their sexuality public.
“(My career took off) after coming out,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I had no idea this silly thing was a weight on my shoulders. That’s my message to anyone in this town who thinks, ‘I’ve got to stay in the closet to be successful in films.’ I didn’t.
“Do you want to be a famous movie star who has love scenes with ladies and in private be an unhappy gay? There’s no choice. Forget the career, dear. Go and do something else… A closet’s a really nasty place to live, you know? It’s dirty, it’s dusty, it’s full of skeletons. You don’t want it. Open that door – fling it wide and be yourself.”