Sir Ian McKellen apologized for remarks he made while on the #QueerAF podcast last week.
The interview was part of a 2019 National Student Pride celebration at the University of Westminster, in England.
The venerated actor discussed his lifetime achievements and relationship with the LGBT community with host Evan Davis. In a wide ranging interview Davis asked McKellen about chemsex (McKellen said he smoked pot before sex when he was 30), his coming out (“Gay liberation passed me by.”), empowering young LGBTQ youth ( “one of the reasons I became a professional actor is because I learned that I could meet queers in the British theatre… I just wish when I was younger I could have been myself”) and the #MeToo movement.
That’s when the actor seemed to get a bit flummoxed.
McKellen started to joke,”Frankly, I”m waiting for someone to accuse me of something,” he said to laughs from the crowd. “And me wondering if they’re not telling the truth, and me having forgotten.”
But when confronted specifically by Davis with the cases of director Bryan Singer and actor Kevin Spacey, both of whom he worked with, the actor turned serious, seeming to feel the change in the energy in the room.
“But… [Singer and Spacey], both of them were in the closet. And hence all their problems as people and their relationships with other people, if they had been able to be open about themselves and their desires, they wouldn’t have started abusing people in the way they’ve been accused,” McKellen said.
“Whether they should be forced to stop working,” the 79 year-old continued, “That’s debatable. I rather think that’s up to the public. Do you want to see someone who has been accused of something that you don’t approve of again? If the answer’s no, then you won’t buy a ticket, you won’t turn on the television. But there may be others for who that’s not a consideration. And it’s difficult to be exactly black and white.”
McKellen played Magneto in Singer’s X-Men films, as well as Singer’s adaptation of the Stephen King story Apt Pupil. He also performed at The Old Vic Theatre under Spacey’s tenure as artistic director.
After the clip of the video of McKellen making the remarks made the rounds on the interwebz, McKellen turned to Twitter with a proper letter to clarify what he meant: “As part of an extended podcast recently, I suggested that if closeted people were instead open about their sexuality they wouldn’t abuse others. That, of course, is wrong.”My intention was to encourage the LGBT audience I was addressing, to be proud and open about their sexuality. In doing so, my point was clumsily expressed. I would never, ever trivialize or condone abuse of any kind.
I deeply regret my careless remarks and apologise unreservedly for any distress I caused.
When it comes to abuse by people in positions of power, the correct response is clear. The accusers must be heard and the accused given the opportunity to clear their names. If the accusations prove credible, the abuser’s access to power should be removed.”
It should be noted that Bryan Singer has been out since his early twenties. Singer also famously was able to talk McKellen into playing Magneto (the actor wasn’t interested in doing a “comic-book movie”), by explaining the that growing up being a mutant and being gay were similar because you grew up being different than your family.
Watch the whole interview below.