Sir Ian McKellen: I want to be remembered more for LGBT rights activism than acting

Sir Ian McKellen has said he most wants to be remembered for his LGBT rights activism.

The legendary actor, 78, has starred in some of the biggest roles in movies – including Gandalf in Lord of the Rings and Magento in X-Men.

But he says it isn’t the starring spots on film, TV and the stage that he wants generations to come to remember him for.

It is, in fact, his work to change attitudes and laws towards LGBT people in Britain that he is most proud of.

While the actor and activist says he won’t be releasing a memoir, he has filmed a new documentary, McKellen: Playing the Part, chronicling his life from the stage to being part of some of the biggest movie franchises of all time.

Asked what he most wants to be remembered for, he told The Hollywood Reporter: “I do a lot of theater, and theater is just for now, it’s just for today.

“Tonight you know, it’s over, it’s finished, it’s not recorded,” he said in the Q&A.

“Now cinema is quite different, film is eternal as you are. But I do notice… that when you look at old films the actors may look young but their acting is rather old-fashioned.

“In other words, there are fashions in acting, and with very few exceptions ones work actually looks worse and worse as the years go by.”

In the 1980s McKellen co-founded Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBT rights charity, which was created to oppose anti-gay laws.

“I’m very proud of my small contributions to changing the law in this country and changing attitudes, all for the better,” he says.

“And I suppose in the scheme of things that is more important and the more merit and longer lasting than any acting that I have done.”

“But,” McKellen adds, “that is more for other people to judge, isn’t it?”

He continues to campaign for LGBT rights today, recently protesting the persecution of gay people in Chechnya.

But he didn’t publicly come out as gay until he was 49-years-old.

The Gandalf actor told Pride in London he had never visited a gay bar until he was 50.

The 78-year-old replied: “I don’t think I went into a gay bar until I was 50-years-old.

“No sooner was I in London than I was hitched up with a friend and lived in a monogamous marriage, really.”

Sir Ian McKellen with Jaymi Hensley

He added: “I didn’t see why we needed gay rights, why we needed gay bars.

“If I went out in the evening I went round to somebody’s house, you know.

“I was living the life of a straight man who was gay, actually.”