Repressed Singapore Tells Ian McKellen: Don’t Get Naked


Ian McKellen, who has fully disrobed during performances of King Lear in Britain, has been asked to avoid the display while performing in Singapore.

McKellen told the Associated Foreign Press: “It is King Lear doing it, not Ian McKellen doing it, so I don’t take particular offence if I’m told ‘would you mind not doing it?’ But what would happen, I wonder, if I did take all my clothes off and instead of my genitalia, I was wearing a pair of false genitalia. Would that be thought inappropriate? Call it censorship, call it advice, it gets in the way a little bit. I think it’s a little bit silly. I’d say, on the whole, people who come to the theatre to see Shakespeare expect to have the whole of life revealed to them — and if that means a glimpse of an actor’s naked body, so be it.”

McKellen quipped that he had a remedy for the situation: “I got a rather fetching pair of underpants … they say on the back, ‘Hello Singapore.'”

The actor also spoke out on a local radio show, urging the government to drop its laws against homosexuality before giving a more significant interview to Reuters on the issue.

Said McKellen: It would be impertinent of me to comment on Singapore society but this happens to be a law that I find personally offensive and I don’t think it should be on the statute books because it inhibits my free behavior as an openly gay man. I feel free to comment on behalf of people who do have to suffer laws which the British empire invented and left behind…The press like to talk to actors. They mustn’t be surprised when actors talk back to them. We are privileged that we have access to the media and our opinions sometimes are reported and I appreciate that. But I only speak on things that I am an expert on…You won’t hear me talk about my politics, you won’t hear me talk about my vegetarianism, you won’t hear me comment on the Iraq war. You’ll only hear me talk about being gay and being an actor. I am just public on those two issues.”


  1. the queen says

    oh dear lord, he’s a wonderful actor but I don’t think I want to see him naked. Singapore is doing us all a big favor. Nor do I think nudity is necessary in King Lear or in any other Shakespeare play for that matter. Now I’m all for nudity onstage, but let the actors be HOT HOT HOT!!!!

  2. Scott says

    If Singapore wishes to edit Sir Ian’s performance, Sir Ian should ‘edit’ himself right out of Singapore. Who needs ’em?

    And “The Queen”: You’re repulsive.

  3. Michael says

    It doesn’t take the full monty to get the churls in Singapore in a tizzy. While it continues to premier in other parts of the world, Reichen & Chip’s season of “The Amazing Race” was shown in that part of the world via satellite contemporaneously with its original run in the US. However, they cut out Chip kissing Reichen on the cheek in the recurring opening credits, similar scenes in any episodes, and, if I recall correctly, even some of their statements about being gay. But, hey, they have skyscrapers and Shakespeare!

  4. Brian says

    Wow, Queenie… what a terrible thing to say. Given the fact that Ian McKellen is one of the finest classically-trained actors of our time, I rather think he’s unlikely to employ nudity onstage just so we can get our rocks off. It’s King Lear, for God’s sake… not Naked Boys Singing.

    Maybe if gay men occasionally saw celebratory images of nudity that weren’t restricted to 19 year old Brazilian supermodels, we’d all have a slightly more realistic opinion of our own bodies… with all the beauty and shortcomings that the human body displays. It would be good for us as individuals, and it would be beneficial for us as a community.

  5. Pat says

    I’m a Singaporean living in New York. Two of the reasons I left Singapore to pursue a creative career in New York are censorship and their ‘sweep under the carpet’ policy towards homosexuality. They know gay people exist, but hush hush is the norm. If gays are not prosecuted as claimed by the government, why have that nagging law?
    It is heartening to know that Ian McKellen is speaking out, bringing international attention to this outdated British law. Someone prominent has to question policies that don’t make any sense this day and age, be it censorship or homosexuality. Singapore is technologically advanced in many ways, but when it comes to expressing ourselves, we still have a long way to go. To Sir (Ian), with love! Pat

  6. John says

    Yes, but it’s probably best to leave the repeal efforts to local activists. Singapore wants to avoid the appearance that they’re bowing to pressure. They want to save face.

    And if outside forces push too strongly…

    I can see how this might be twisted around by the government as “foreign interference” (by which, of course, they mean the evil white man) with Chinese, Malay, and Indian social norms.

  7. Jacob says

    look, im a gay singaporean. singapore’s not as repressive as foreigners might think – though we’re not exactly that liberated either. homosexuality is still a hush-hush and ‘look the other way’ thing

  8. Matthew says

    Alan Cummings was on Graham Norton talking about going to a nude beach with Sir Ian. He said that Sir Ian was, um, hung.

    Call me a perv, but I’m kinda hoping McKellan brings his nude King Lear to New York City. I’ll totally be there! And not for the that whole Shakespeare/great acting thing either!

  9. Gregoire says

    Given the possible nature of what the nudity might be (to illustrate the weakness and vulnerability of Lear), I cant imagine its being done in any way to intice or titillate!

  10. gandalf says

    If you think Singapore has repressive rules governing gays, you should come to Malaysia (Singapore’s neighbour). Here, the police will round up gays and shove a truncheon on their gay asses. Serves them right for being gay bastards.

  11. ks says

    Ian has a lovely body :)
    it’s good to be a famous actor… we need active people in the world to bring minds all over. it could be the beginning of the change. i hope so

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