In a recent Hollywood Reporter interview, about his new role as Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, McKellen opens up about gay actors and why they should come out. He also mentions the political issue that made him feel it was time to publicly come out as a gay man.
Over the course of our conversation, McKellen discusses the youthful experiences that inspired him to become an actor; his deep love of Shakespeare and his decision to "come out" as a gay man — years before Rupert Everett, Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris — during a 1988 radio debate about a Thatcher-era policy that would have persecuted gays. The announcement could have ended his career but instead, he says, it kick-started it. He had long been established as a great of the stage, but he suddenly became more versatile, he says, and began landing major screen roles. "It all happened after coming out," he marvels. "I had no idea this silly thing was a weight on my shoulders."
"That's my message to anyone in this town who thinks 'I've got to stay in the closet to be successful in films'," he emphasizes. "I didn't." He asks, "Do you want to be a famous movie star who has love scenes with ladies and in private be an unhappy gay? There's no choice. Forget the career, dear. Go and do something else … A closet's a really nasty place to live, you know? It's dirty, it's dusty, it's full of skeletons. You don't want it. Open that door — fling it wide and be yourself." – hollywoodreporter.com
And this man is why the phrase respect your elders still exists. Thank you for being you, Ian!
To listen to the entire Ian McKellen interview on podcast, head on over to the Hollywood Reporter here. It's a great interview touching on so many more topics than being gay.