Oscar-nominated actor Sir Ian McKellen has opened up about the one thing he wished he’d told his parents.
In a new interview on The Jonathan Ross Show, host Jonathan Ross asked McKellen if he felt close to his parents. The question opened the floodgates for McKellen.
“As close as you can be when your mother dies at 12 and dad dies when you’re 22,” McKellen explained. He also lamented that his folks never really got to know him as an adult.
“Never told them I was gay, for example,” McKellen added. “Didn’t see me do any of my best work. But I remember them with nothing but pleasure.”
For McKellen, however, that regret led him to a lifetime of activism.
“I never stopped talking about it since. Made up for lost time. It changes your life utterly… I discovered myself. And everything was better,” he added. “My relationships with my family, with friends, with strangers, and my work got better as I wasn’t hiding anymore. Up to that point, my acting had really been about disguise and then when I could feel I was myself, it came about telling the truth, which was much more interesting.”
“I keep giving [young, closeted people] advice and saying, ‘Oh come on, join the modern world, it’s not the same. You won’t get put in prison,'” he further quipped. “That was my dilemma when I was a kid, if I’d said I was openly gay I could have risked being prosecuted. That’s not true anymore. We have very good laws in [the UK].”
In addition to his thriving acting career, which has seen him net two Academy Award nominations and iconic movie roles such as Magneto in the X-Men series and Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Sir Ian McKellen has spent his adult life advocating for LGBTQ people. He came out at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s to raise awareness about the disease and oppose then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s proposed anti-gay laws. More recently, he’s become an advocate for the transgender community, and helped start a program to make sure queer seniors have appropriate care.