Openly gay actor Ian McKellen has slammed woke demands for only gay actors to play gay roles, saying in a recent BBC interview, “we’re acting. We’re pretending.”
Ian McKellen was addressing growing calls among woke activists and journalists that characters in movies and TV shows should only be played by those actors of identical ethnicity and sexuality.
“Is the argument that a straight man cannot play a gay part, and if so, does that mean I can’t play straight parts and I’m not allowed to explore the fascinating subject of heterosexuality in Macbeth? Surely not. We’re acting. We’re pretending,” the Lord of Rings star reportedly said in the interview on BBC2.
McKellen played Shakespeare’s Macbeth in an acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production in 1976 that was also televised. Throughout his lengthy career, he has played straight and gay characters on stage and screen.
Sir Ian McKellen walking through Piccadilly Circus during Pride in London 2019 on July 06, 2019 in London, England. (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Pride in London)
In the interview, the X-Men star spoke about the controversy over the casting of Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in an upcoming movie.
“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?” he said.
He later added: “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.”
Last year, actor Eddie Redmayne expressed regret about his Oscar-nominated role in The Danish Girl, saying that playing a transgender character was a “mistake.”
Actor Javier Bardem has faced criticism for playing Desi Arnaz in the recent movie Being the Ricardos, with some woke journalists questioning why a Spanish actor is playing the part of a Cuban. Writer-director Aaron Sorkin has dismissed the criticism, saying there is nothing inappropriate about Bardem’s casting.