Sir Ian McKellen: Alec Guinness ‘begged’ me not to fight for gay rights

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Sir Ian McKellen has revealed that Star Wars actor Alec Guinness warned him against getting involved in the gay rights movement.

Guinness, who is best known for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy, died in 2000, aged 86.

The actor made the comments on Wednesday, at an event held by the Lord Mayor of London.

He said: “Alec Guinness took me out to lunch and said: ‘You really should not, as a leading actor, have anything to do with anything political, especially anything as dirty as homosexuality. I beg you not to do it.’

“That was self-hatred.”

Guinness – who married and had a son – was allegedly arrested and fined 10 guineas (£10.50) for a homosexual act in a public lavatory in Liverpool in 1946.

McKellen continued “What the Stonewall riots taught is if you want something done you have to do it yourself. You cannot rely on anyone else.

“[Film director] Derek Jarman wasn’t very pleased with me when I came out. He assumed anyone coming out would become a queer artist as he had.

“And I said ‘no, I find the concept of heterosexuality far too interesting to ignore it’.”

Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf, who noted in her keynote address that homophobia is still prevalent in the City, announced at the event that McKellen will be awarded freedom of the city.