Veteran actor Sir Ian McKellen has recounted how coming out helped him to develop as an actor, and that it ultimately didn’t harm his career.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, McKellen noted that accepting his sexual identity made him a more confident person.
“I think any gay person who does come out will tell you that that is the best thing that they have ever done in their life because they stop lying. They tell the truth about themselves.”
“They become altogether a more attractive person, a more confident person. Everything in your life improves, including, in my case, my acting.
“I was able to use my work to tell the truth about human nature rather than using it to disguise it.”
McKellen noted that it’s not easy for everyone to publicly come out, adding that, in Hollywood, many LGBT+ actors are concerned they would lose roles because of their sexual or gender identity.
“Actors think, oh I won’t get jobs anymore,” McKellen said. “None of it’s true. My career as a film actor took off very shortly after I was honest and came out.”
McKellen says when he was younger, he “took comfort and courage” in the fact that actors including Simon Callow (Amadeus, A Room With A View) had come out before him.
In a previous interview last year, McKellen commented that, in fact, Hollywood had "disregarded" LGBT+ actors.
"No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance," he told The Guardian.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, the actor added that he’s most proud, not of his acting career, but of his LGBT+ activism.
“…I’m very proud of my small contributions to changing the law in this country and changing attitudes, all for the better, and I suppose in the scheme of things that is more important and the more merit and longer lasting than any acting that I have done,” he said.
McKellen campaigned against Section 28—a clause of the Local Government Act that prohibited local authorities and schools from “promoting homosexuality”. The rule was enacted in 1988 and was fully repealed in the UK by 2003.
McKellen has also been vocal in the global protest against Chechnya’s anti-LGBT+ purge, leading a rally at the Russian embassy in London in June this year.