Over the holidays, I finally got around to seeing Mr. Holmes, the critically acclaimed film about Sherlock Holmes’ last case. Ian McKellen was the ancient Sherlock, and he was actually quite brilliant. So brilliant, I kind of wonder why he wasn’t a bigger part in the awards discussion. Ian has been nominated for two Oscars in his life, along with a slew of other awards for stage and screen. Most of those nominations and awards came after Ian came out of the closet. But I’m willing to acknowledge that Ian is sort of gay unicorn, much like Neil Patrick Harris: they are out gay men accepted by the “mainstream” to a large extent, possibly because they’re white men. Why do I bring this up? Ian has said some words about #OscarsSoWhite, and he draws a larger correlation with the groups shunned by the industry: women, LGBT and actors of color.
Sir Ian McKellen has told Sky News he has “sympathy” for black people in Hollywood who feel discriminated against but added that gay people are also still being “disregarded”. The 76-year-old, who is gay and a co-founder of the rights group Stonewall, said criticism surrounding the lack of diversity among nominees at the Oscars is “legitimate”.
Sir Ian said: “As a representative of the industry they’re in, it’s receiving complaints which I fully sympathise with. It’s not only black people who’ve been disregarded by the film industry, it used to be women, it’s certainly gay people to this day. And these are all legitimate complaints and the Oscars are the focus of those complaints of course.”
I don’t have a problem with what he says. He’s practicing “yes and” activism/alliance and he seems open to intersectionality. He’s not saying it’s a competition to see which is the most aggrieved group, he’s just saying that these groups (black people, LGBT and women) are largely disregarded by Hollywood stories. And he’s right.
In another interview Monday, this time with the Guardian, Ian pointed out something really interesting: no openly gay actor has won the Oscar. He said: “No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance.” He pointed out that Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sean Penn have all won Oscars for playing gay men but, “What about giving me one for playing a straight man? My speech has been in two jackets … ‘I’m proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar.’ I’ve had to put it back in my pocket twice.” Damn, that actually tugged on my heartstrings a little bit. Even if Ian never wins the Oscar for acting, I have to think he’s got one coming for lifetime achievement, right?
Photos courtesy of Getty, Fame/Flynet and Pacific Coast News.