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Lord of the Rings Actor Ian McKellen Revealed Why He Came Out at 49

Jaimie-lee Prince
Jan 04, 2020
02:30 A.M.
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For many, it's still a huge deal for them to reveal their true sexuality even in these modern times. Ian McKellen, who starred in the huge "Lord of the Rings" franchise, did it at age 49.


Ian McKellen, now 80, is a beloved Hollywood actor who decided to reveal a part of himself that he kept hidden for most of his life. He spoke about it in a memoir that came out in September.

The British actor was not so big on staying in the public light in the first place, but when he came out as gay, he knew he might gain some attention.

Ian McKellen attends the screening of "Beauty and the Beast" in New York City on March 13, 2017 | Photo: Getty Images

Ian McKellen attends the screening of "Beauty and the Beast" in New York City on March 13, 2017 | Photo: Getty Images


Motivation and hesitation to come out

According to People, McKellen was motivated to come out of the closet to become an LGBTQ community advocate. In the book, he reportedly says that he didn't even know himself.

McKellen is a former Cambridge University student who, even back then, knew that he was gay at the least. However, at the time, it was illegal to be outwardly gay until 1967.

Despite that, McKellen was hesitant to come out for fear of what might happen to his career. In his book, friend and author Gary O'Connor outlines how the actor thought audiences would no longer respect him.

Ian McKellen attends an after paty for "King Lear" in London, England on July 26, 2018 | Photo: Getty Images

Ian McKellen attends an after paty for "King Lear" in London, England on July 26, 2018 | Photo: Getty Images

The tipping point leads to relief

In 1988, public legal issues trumped McKellen's fears, and he revealed his sexuality on a radio broadcast. The discussion was about legislation that discouraged and criminalized assistance to gays.


In the end, McKellen's life improved significantly after he came out and, instead of his career suffering, it advanced. He said it was a relief as "an unnecessary millstone was lifted."

The book reportedly read:

"He had left the dark closet of secrecy for self-exposure and liberation. This galvanized him, energized him in a direction he had never thought himself capable of."

Ian McKellen walks through Piccadilly Circus during Pride in London, England on July 6, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images

Ian McKellen walks through Piccadilly Circus during Pride in London, England on July 6, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images


McKellen's 30-year coming out anniversary

From there, McKellen's advocacy took off. He wrote content, made tv appearances, and, of course, raised funds for non-profit organizations with LGBTQ causes.

Back in April 2018, McKellen again discussed the moment he came out, saying it was "the best thing I ever did in my life." Upon receiving a knighthood in 1991, he said he was glad it was after he came out.

Earlier that year, McKellen also shared a tweet that seemingly encouraged others to share their truth. He'd never met someone who regretted going public, he said, as he celebrated 30 years.


"X: Men" and Hollywood's gay history

The actor, who starred in "X: Men," also once shared his views that the hero-filled film was a "gay man's delight" because of the many divas who appear in the franchise.

He talked about his sibling-like relationship with Halle Berry and suggested that his coming out helped actress Ellen Page to do the same. McKellen continues to play heterosexual parts nonetheless.


However, in 2018, he allegedly revealed that at least once, he was denied a role due to his sexuality. In the same interview, the actor reportedly claimed that "half of Hollywood is gay."

For context, he was talking about the film "Gods and Monsters," released in 1998, which was supposedly one of the first movies that saw Hollywood show some gay acceptance.


Hugh Jackman sings for McKellen's birthday

Of course, many fellow celebrities have not just accepted McKellen's truth, they've also gone out of the way to celebrate him. In May 2019, Hugh Jackman even sang for his former co-star.

The "X-Men" star was doing a performance event for his one-man spectacle, "The Man, The Music, The Show" in the Manchester Arena. While on stage, he took the time to celebrate McKellen's birthday.

He coaxed an audience of 50,000 to join him in singing Happy Birthday to the 80-year-old. "Love you, man!" he added at the end, along with a kiss.


McKellen is undoubtedly living his best life and has been doing so for decades now. We hope he continues to be happy now that everything is out in the open, and nothing within is holding him back.

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