There have been many times in my life when I wanted to give Ian McKellen a big hug, and I will admit that most of them were Lord of the Rings-related (except for the part in Fellowship of the Ring when he says, “You shall not pass,” which is transphobic). But never have I wanted to give him a big ol’ squeeze the way I do now.
On Sunday, McKellen was a guest on Doctor Who star David Tennant’s podcast, David Tennant Does a Podcast With, and McKellen (who came out in 1988) spoke about wishing he’d come out to his parents before they passed.
“It’s the greatest regret of my life that I didn’t tell them,” he told Tennant. “My mother died when I was 12, and my father when I was 24, so I didn’t talk to either of them about it.” McKellen said he knew he was gay as early as 12.
The actor also had time to talk about the Hollywood closet. “I feel sorry for them,” he admitted. “I know they’d be happier if they came out… They say, ‘I want to be the next Tom Cruise,’ but there’s only one person who’s going to be the next Tom Cruise, and it might be you, but there’s an awful lot of other people who it might be as well.” The X-Men star doesn’t understand “what’s so important about acting that you’d live a lie.”
“How can being successful as an actor be compensation for that?” he said.
McKellen explained that he can’t imagine “worrying everyday that someone’s going to out you, and then… you’re not going to be the next Tom Cruise! There’s only three or four successful romantic leads at any one time in Hollywood, and why would you be one of them?”
McKellen had a final message for closeted actors: “Come out, and your career will carry on as it would have. It’s perfectly possible now to be openly gay and not be stuck playing only a gay part.”