Veteran actor Sir Ian McKellen has weighed in on the ongoing Academy Awards diversity controversy, saying in a recent interview that criticism of the Academy is “legitimate” and that, in addition to African-American actors, other minority actors have also been marginalized or ignored by the film industry, including gays.
In an interview with Sky News, the 76-year-old two-time Oscar nominee said that he “sympathizes” with black actors who have criticized the Academy over the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees.
“The Oscars have a very special place in the lives of American actors,” the Lord of the Rings star told the outlet. “As a representative of the industry they’re in, it’s receiving complaints which I fully sympathize with.”
“It’s not only black people who’ve been disregarded by the film industry, it used to be women, it’s certainly gay people to this day,” he added. “And these are all legitimate complaints and the Oscars are the focus of those complaints of course.”
McKellen is himself a high profile gay actor who has been nominated twice for an Oscar (for 2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and 1998’s Gods and Monsters) but has yet to win the much coveted award.
He has spoken out about the underrepresentation of gay actors in media before; in September, the actor suggested that the children’s cartoon show Peppa Pig should feature a gay character.
On Friday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a dramatic overhaul of its voting rules and organizational structure in an effort to increase the level of diversity within the Academy, and, by extension, the larger film industry. For the second consecutive year, all 20 acting nominees at the Oscars are white.
Stars like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, filmmakers Spike Lee and Michael Moore and the rapper Snoop Dogg have all pledged to boycott the awards ceremony in protest, while the Rev. Al Sharpton has urged a national “tune out” of the February 28 broadcast.