Speaking at the London launch of the BFI Shakespeare season, McKellen pointed out that no gay man has ever won a best actor Academy Award.
However, three heterosexual actors have won for their performances as gay men. In 1993 Tom Hanks won Best Actor for his role in Philadelphia, in 2006 Philip Seymour Hoffman won for Capote, and Sean Penn won for Milk in 2009.
“No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar. I wonder if that is prejudice or chance,” said McKellen at the BFI event yesterday.
McKellen’s comments were in response to controversy over the lack of ethnic diversity in 2016’s Academy Awards. This year no ethnic minorities actors are nominated in any of the 20 major film categories for the second year running. Suicide Squad’s Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith have pledged to boycott this year’s ceremony as a result.
“I think you have to live in Hollywood, where the Oscars mean so much more than they do elsewhere, to understand why people’s feelings are running so high,” he said.
“And the fact that black people feel under-represented in studio movies and big movies, well, it’s what women thought for a long time, it’s what gay people like myself still think.
“And it’s a legitimate complaint and the Oscars has become the focus of those worries, so I sympathise.”
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