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Ian McKellen: Gay People Are Also 'Disregarded' by Hollywood

Ian McKellen
Giles Keyte/Roadside Attractions

“My speech has been in two jackets: ‘I’m proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar.' I’ve had to put it back in my pocket twice.”

Sir Ian McKellen has weighed in on the great #OscarsSoWhite debate, acknowledging that Hollywood's diversity problem extends to not only people of color, but gay people as well.

"As a representative of the industry they're in, it's receiving complaints which I fully sympathise with," Sir Ian said at the launch of the British Film Institute's celebration of Shakespeare on film. "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."

Though praised by critics for his performance in Mr. Holmes, McKellen was left out of the Best Actor race this year--if you really want to call it a race since I'm pretty sure Leo already has his speech ready.

"No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar," McKellen added. "I wonder if that is prejudice or chance."

Openly gay men have won Oscars in the past, including Dustin Lance Black for his screenplay for Milk and Elton John for The Lion King. But when it comes to the acting categories, particulary the lead acting category, gay men only win when they're portrayed by a straight man on screen.

Related | A Brief History of Diversity (or Lack Thereof) at the Oscars

Tom Hanks (Philadelphia), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) and Sean Penn (Milk) all took home Best Actor trophies for playing gay men. "How clever, how clever," McKellen noted. "What about giving me one for playing a straight man?"

McKellen has been nominated for two Academy Awards--in 2002 for Best Supporting Actor for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and in 1999 when he was robbed of Best Actor for Gods & Monsters.

That was a dark year in Oscar history--figuratively, of course. Roberto Begnini took home Best Actor for Life Is Beautiful while Gwyneth Paltrow won Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love, and neither of them were ever heard from again. Meanwhile, Shakespeare in Love somehow beat out Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture, proving that the Oscars were literally all over the place that year.

However, Bill Condon, the gay screenwriter of Gods & Monsters, did win Best Adapted Screenplay.

"My speech has been in two jackets," McKellen said of his previous nominations."'I'm proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar.' I've had to put it back in my pocket twice."

Last Friday, the Academy announced that it was making some changes to increase diversity among its members, but with some stars already vowing to boycott the ceremony, this year has already been tainted by the controversy. Hopefully host Chris Rock can make light--pun intended--of it all.

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