• Sir Ian McKellen is a long time award-winning actor
  • He is speaking out about the backlash surrounding certain roles being given to certain actors 
  • Sir Ian McKellen is openly part of the LGBTQ+ community

Sir Ian McKellen has some wise words for those criticizing the casting for Hollywood films. The 82-year-old Lord of the Rings actor sat down with BBC2 to discuss some important issues.

Ian McKellen doesn't want gay roles for only gay actors

Most recently in the controversy surrounding casting choices, Helen Mirren has come under fire for being cast in a role that is a Jewish woman, despite not being Jewish herself. McKellen thinks that's not an issue.

Sir Ian McKellen attends UK launch event for Disney's "Beauty And The Beast" 

During his interview, McKellen raised an important question. He said, "There are two things – is the argument that a gentile cannot play a Jew, and is the argument therefore that a Jew cannot play a gentile? Is the argument that a straight man cannot play a gay part?"

McKellen, who is currently working on theatre projects in Macbeth, said the purpose of acting is to pretend. 

"Does that mean I can't play straight parts and I'm not allowed to explore the fascinating subject of heterosexuality in Macbeth?" he continued. "Surely not. We're acting. We're pretending."

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He noted that actors might not always be successful in convincing audiences they are indeed the part they're pretending to be, but that it's part of the process.

"Now, are we capable of understanding what it is to be Jewish? Are we going to convince a Jewish audience that we're Jewish? Perhaps we don’t need to because we are just acting," he said.

Helen Mirren herself has spoken on the issue and said that she doesn't feel like the question and controversy itself is ridiculous, in fact, she said quite the opposite.

"I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had – it’s utterly legitimate," she told ITV. 

In a separate interview with The Daily Mail she said that she told the casting director that if they wanted to go in another direction, she wouldn't be offended by that.

"I said, 'Look, Guy, I'm not Jewish, and if you want to think about that and decide to go in a different direction, no hard feelings. I will absolutely understand," she said.