As the Academy works to remedy Hollywood’s inclusion issue, Sir Ian McKellen is stressing the need to broaden the definition of the word diversity. McKellen says that gay actors are being “disregarded” and ignored by Hollywood as much as African Americans are.
McKellen, who is the co-founder of the LGBT rights charity Stonewall, said the criticism facing the Academy for the lack of diversity at the Oscars is “legitimate.”
“As a representative of the industry they’re in, it’s receiving complaints which I fully sympathize with,” the 76-year-old actor said while speaking to Sky News. “It’s not only black people who’ve been disregarded by the film industry, it used to be women, it’s certainly gay people to this day. And these are all legitimate complaints and the Oscars are the focus of those complaints, of course.”
He also spoke to The Guardian about the industry’s possible prejudice toward the LBGT community.
“No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance,” he told The Guardian.
“How clever, how clever,” McKellen then said of Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sean Penn winning best actor Oscars for playing gay men. “What about giving me one for playing a straight man?” he asked.
McKellen was nominated for a best actor Oscar in 1999 for “Gods and Monsters” and in 2002 for best supporting actor in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”
“My speech has been in two jackets… ‘I’m proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar,'” he said, recalling a line from the speeches. “I’ve had to put it back in my pocket twice.”
The Academy came under fire earlier this month following the Oscar nominations, which excluded people of color from acting categories. This brought the moniker #OscarsSoWhite back for a second time. Many other actors, including George Clooney, Mark Ruffalo, Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, Steve McQueen, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, have criticized the Academy. Spike Lee announced he wouldn’t be attending the “lily-white Oscars.”
Last Friday, the Academy met to approve a series of changes for voting and recruitment as part of its goal to double the number of women and diverse members by 2020.