Damian Lewis offers a public apology to Ian McKellen for ‘fruity actor’ shade


A few days ago, we discussed the seemingly out-of-nowhere British actor-beef between Damian Lewis and Sir Ian McKellen. Back in October, Damian gave an interview to The Guardian where he was discussing his early theater days and his dreams of doing TV and film work, and how worried he was that a film and TV career would never happen. He lamented the “idea that I would be one of these slightly over-the-top, fruity actors who would have an illustrious career on stage, but wouldn’t start getting any kind of film work until I was 50 and then start playing wizards.”

Obviously, that was taken as a rather pointed slam against McKellen, who got around to saying something this week as he promoted The Desolation of Smaug. McKellen basically said that he was proud of his career in films and theater and that he’s glad film success didn’t come to him until later in his life. What I loved about McKellen’s reaction is that he didn’t whip out his IMDB or make some long list of his achievements – he’s an acting legend and he knows that we know that. Anyway, Damian must have heard (or been told) about Ian’s reaction because Damian came out and issued a public apology, and apparently he’s apologized to Sir Ian in private as well:

The Homeland actor Damian Lewis has apologised to Sir Ian McKellen after saying he did not want to end up a “fruity actor” who is known for playing wizards.

Lewis, 42, admitted he was “hugely embarrassed” after McKellen, 74, who plays the wizard Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit films, responsed acerbically in the Radio Times.

Lewis issued a statement on Wednesday night, saying: “I am hugely embarrassed that comments of mine have been linked in a negative way to Sir Ian McKellen. I have always been, and continue to be, an enormous fan and admirer of Sir Ian’s. He’s one of the greats and one of the reasons I became an actor. My comment in the Guardian was a soundbite I’ve been giving since 1999 – it was a generic analogy that was never intended to demean or describe anyone else’s career. I have contacted Sir Ian McKellen and have given him my sincerest apologies.”

McKellen, one of Britain’s best-loved stage and screen actors with a career spanning decades, admitted that his performance in this year’s critically panned ITV sitcom Vicious was “over the top” but added that “no one needs to feel sorry for me” after Lewis described one of the reasons why he wanted to break out of the theatre.

[From The Guardian]

See, I kind of think Damian’s apology (both public and private) is fine. I take him at his word that he wasn’t trying to pointedly denigrate Sir Ian. If you’ve read enough of Damian’s interviews, you get the hang of his rather blunt style of speaking, his acerbic wit and his lack of ass-kissing niceties. Damian’s gotten in trouble for this kind of thing before, and I think that’s just what this was – he was trying to be self-effacing and he came across as almost snide. Plus, this is a good lesson for other celebrities who speak out of turn – issue a heartfelt apology (wrapped in a sincere compliment to the person you’ve offended) as you clarify your remarks which may or may not have been misinterpreted. Damian gets bonus points from me for not blaming The Guardian for “misquoting” him.



Photos courtesy of WENN.

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26 Responses to “Damian Lewis offers a public apology to Ian McKellen for ‘fruity actor’ shade”

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  1. I Choose Me says:

    I’m glad he apologized whether or not his comments were taken out of context. I’m also made to understand that the term ‘fruity’ in British parlance does not have the same homophobic connotation as the American expression of the word. And yes, this is how you do an apology.

    Homeland still sucks the big one this season though. Love Damian Lewis as an actor but can Brody die already. Can Carrie get her sh*t together? Can I get more Rupert Friend? – He and Mandy Pantinkin is the only reason I still watch this mess.

  2. Secret Squirrel says:

    OMG! Is Ian wearing a velvet jacket in that photo?? Spunky!! Thank you to whoever started that trend!!

  3. Dani2 says:

    Glad he had the good sense to apologise.

  4. NewWester says:

    This is the right way to apologize. Both actors have said what needed to be said and can now move on.
    A certain “Housewife” from Beverly Hills should be taking notes….

    • mom2two says:

      I think both men handled it well. I do see what Damian was trying to say though it came out very clumsy and I don’t think he was trying to throw shade in anyone’s direction. Because seriously, who would shade Ian McKellan?

    • lana86 says:

      i like how classy Ian responded, and how genuinely Damian apologized…Somehow it makes me think that men actors are (in average) less petty than women. I mean, lots of celebrity men are douchebags, but the degree of pettiness in feuds between grown up women is embarrassing and distasteful…

  5. Tessa says:

    I never got why Ian thought he was talking about him. Half of the aging actors in GB took part in Harry Potter in some way or another, and that’s all about Wizards. It was a very broad reference. Ian was being too sensitive, but it’s good Damian apologized anyway.

    • Evi says:

      There are three actors who play wizards in their ‘old age’: Michael Gambon, Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen.
      Lewis’ comment about ‘fruity’ actors clearly refers to homosexuality. Of the three actors above, Ian McKellen is homosexual.
      That is why Ian McKellen thought he was being referred to. So no, it’s not a broad reference at all.

      • Lark says:

        Yeah, it was pretty freaking obvious to who he was referring to especially when he talks about stage actors who became wizards in their old age in highly successful films. Gambon, who has passed, Lee, or McKellan. It was way too specific, so for him to claim it was a broad statement seems ridiculous…. I have hard time buying that he’s not aware of the homophobic connotation fruity holds in America too. Anyway, Sir Ian accepted the apology which was nice of him.

      • Lucrezia says:

        It doesn’t necessarily refer to homosexuality when it’s said by a Brit. It’s one of those words that means something totally different in the two countries.

        Damian’s been in the US long enough that he could’ve picked up the US interpretation … but if you read it that way, his sentence doesn’t make sense.

        Try re-reading the whole context using the American (gay) interpretation. Why would Damian lament “the idea that I would be one of … those fruity actors”. You really think he was worried small-theatre work would turn him gay? It just doesn’t make any sense.

        He meant “fruity” like “luvvy”. Think clichéd, over-the-top theatre actors. The kind of person that would (with a straight face) say “I’m an acTOR, dahling”. That’s all fruity means in this context. Nothing to do with sexuality.

        That said, I do think he deserves a bit of shade for insulting luvvies and/or wizards. (Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards for they are subtle and quick to anger!)

      • Elephant says:

        I would like to point out that Micheal Gambon has not passed, as of today. Richard Harris did.

      • Sixer says:

        I second Lucrezia. He meant fruity as in theatrical, not as in gay slur. In fact, wizard notwithstanding, I immediately thought of Brian Blessed when I read his comment.

        I’m glad he apologised, however. A tactless and impolite remark to be making.

    • hiddlesgirl85 says:

      I’m not sure why many people believe that Damien meant to shade Ian with the “fruity” comment. These guys are Brits, not Americans, so their words will have different meanings than the way we understand them.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        I agree, and would also add that even in the US, where I’m from, “fruity” used to mean nutty and eccentric, not gay, when I was young. Seeeew long ago.

  6. Evi says:

    With that head and face, Lewis has a limited acting life span in Hollywood. Sure it’s great he apologised, but I think damage is done now. After Homeland is done and dusted, which will be most likely soon according to many write ups of the latest lame season, Lewis will be lucky to get a lead role.

  7. Norman Bates' Mother says:

    Ian commented this on Twitter and he was really great about this whole situation. He wrote: “There was no need for Damien Lewis to apologise to me, as I thought his comments were fair. But he’s a gentleman.” and then: “Now I hope Damien Lewis enjoys The Hobbit Movie DOS as much as I enjoy Homeland”. Media tried to make it more scandalous than it really was but I appreciate the lack of unnecessary drama. Some celebrities could learn a lot from them, especially Ian McKellen.

    • taylor says:

      Yes, i think Ian McKellen’s acceptance is even better than Damien Lewis’s apology. McKellen is amazing! The apology was good, though, so that’s nice. Seeming someone take responsibility is always pleasant.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Very nice to see some maturity on both sides. Good for both gentlemen.

    • lunchcoma says:

      Such a gentleman!

  8. Violeta says:

    Um… That “generic analogy” was pretty specific though…

    I don’t care if Damien’s face has been known in the UK for this and that role before he made it to the USA with Homeland, bottom line is Sir Ian McKellen and other older actors have been through the ringer doing the acting game for years and sustain longevity, so Mr Lewis better show some humility when he clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about…

    But at least he didn’t compare himself to Jesus so…

  9. hiddlesgirl85 says:

    I said this already earlier, but I’m not sure why many people believe that Damien meant to shade Ian with the “fruity” comment. These guys are Brits, not Americans, so their words will have different meanings than the way we understand them.

  10. lunchcoma says:

    That’s a proper apology. Good job, Damian.

    I still think it was foolish of him to make the comment in the first place and that it should have occurred to him why it might cause offense, but a good, clear, no excuses apology will make up for a great deal.

  11. Flower says:

    “My comment in the Guardian was a soundbite I’ve been giving since 1999″

    So Damian is insulting reporters and the magazine reading public now, basically saying he can’t be bothered to be genuine and inventive in his responses when someone wants to interview him, and simply trots out the same old sound bite. I get that’s it’s a bore to be asked the same questions over and over but at least make an effort to be charming and original like Sir Ian. Damian isn’t good enough to be Ians’s shoe lace let alone his equal.