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Ian McKellen Responds to Damian Lewis' Remark on 'Fruity' Older Actors

Ian McKellen Responds to Damian Lewis' Remark on 'Fruity' Older Actors
Ian McKellen in NO MAN'S LAND on Broadway.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

In an October 2013 interview with The Guardian, HOMELAND actor Damian Lewis discussed his beginnings at the Royal Shakespeare Company and his eventual desire to leave the world of stage acting.

In the course of his response, Lewis said he worried he could become like, "one of these slightly over-the-top, fruity actors who would have an illustrious career on stage, but wouldn't start getting any kind of film work until I was 50 and then start playing wizards."

Sound familiar?

It certainly did to Sir Ian McKellen, who is well known for his portrayal of the wizard 'Gandalf' in THE LORD OF THE RINGS and HOBBIT films, as well as 'Magneto' in the X-MEN franchise, and who is currently starring on Broadway opposite Sir Patrick Stewart in NO MAN'S LAND and WAITING FOR GODOT.

So, McKellen responded to Lewis' comment while speaking with the Radio Times.

He began: "So he feels sorry for me, does he? Well I'm very happy, he needn't worry about me."

He said Lewis' comment was fair but added: "To rebut it: I wouldn't like to have been one of those actors who hit stardom quite early on and expected it to continue and was stuck doing scripts that I didn't particularly like just to keep the income up. I've always wanted to get better as an actor. And I have got better. You've only got to see my early work to see that."

McKellen, who came out as gay when he was 49, continued: "As for a fruity voice? Well, it may be a voice that is trained like an opera singer's voice: to fill a large space. It is unnatural. Actors have to be heard and their voice may therefore develop a sonorous quality that they can't quite get rid of, so you think actors are as pompous as their voice is large. I suppose Damian was thinking of that a little bit, too."

"To be allowed for the first time in your later career to play leading parts in extremely popular movies is not a situation to worry about. No-one needs to feel sorry for me or Michael Gambon (who played Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies) or anyone else who has fallen victim to success."

Speaking about gay stars who are forced to remain in the closet, McKellen said, "They're warned by the people who surround them -- agents and managers, who have a living to make and are worried that the actor will get pigeonholed. I don't think the audience gives a damn. You don't have to be straight to play Gandalf. Anyway, who says that Gandalf isn't gay? I loved it when JK Rowling said that Dumbledore was gay."

Ian McKellen won the Tony Award for his performance in Amadeus in 1981. McKellen and Stewart have appeared together on stage twice before - in the 2009 West End production of Waiting for Godot and in the 1977 premiere of Tom Stoppard's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. Broadway's WAITING FOR GODOT and NO MAN'S LAND will play in rep through Sunday, March 2 at the Cort Theatre (138 West 48th Street).

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