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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 16:42 GMT
McKellen attack over gay policies
Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian: A notable gay rights activist
Lord of the Rings trilogy star Sir Ian McKellen has accused the Labour government of being no better than its Tory predecessor at tackling gay issues.

The actor, who came out in 1988, told the Radio Times he was "appalled" it was still legal to sack someone for being gay.

A notable gay rights activist, Sir Ian said John Major had been "woefully ignorant about gay people and their problems".

Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings
"But I don't detect the present government is any more willing than he was to move things ahead," he added.

But a spokesman for the Trade and Industry Department said the Labour government was "the first to recognise the importance of tackling discrimination in the workplace".

A statement issued by the government said: "The government agreed the EU's Employment Directive in November last year.

"This requires us to implement new legislation to combat discrimination in employment and training on the grounds of age, sex and religion.

"We will be launching a consultation document soon on how to implement this directive and we will be seeking views on all three grounds."

Sir Ian, who stars as the wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was criticised for accepting his knighthood in 1991 from Margaret Thatcher.

"I'll always be glad I was offered it after I'd come out, and Maggie knew she was giving it to an openly gay man, not a species she is renowned for favouring."

But he said he was unimpressed by discussions at 10 Downing Street with her successor, Mr Major.

'Proud'

In a stage and screen career spanning more than 36 years, Sir Ian has amassed five Olivier awards, a Tony and a Golden Globe.

But in the interview he said that money and international fame had come his way "very late in the day".

He also admitted his regret at missing out on the best actor Oscar in 1999 for Gods and Monsters to Roberto Benigni's performance in Life is Beautiful.

"I expected to win and was disappointed when I didn't. I'd been told by people in the know that I had a very good chance. Now I realise no one is in the know," he said.

Duncan asked Sir Ian if he thought the Academy Awards judging process could be manipulated by production companies.

Sir Ian replied: "If it isn't, why is all that money spent on campaigns? As an Oscar voter myself now, I see what goes on.

"You get the DVD as a gift, tapes, book on which the film is based, CDs of the music, and lots of coloured photographs. I don't say votes are bought, but they like to create a consensus."

Sir Ian also said that he was bemused by the marketing used to generate interest in movies, not least of all Lord of the Rings.

But he concluded: "My ambition has always been to do something my parents would be proud of.

"Actors do provide a service and presumably if I do it well they'd approve."

See also:

16 Nov 01 | Film
Rise of the blockbuster
15 May 01 | Film
Cannes preview for Rings
16 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Digital effects bring Rings to life
11 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Online fans await Tolkien tale
26 Apr 01 | Health
Gays 'have right to parenthood'
03 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Tories split over gay rights sacking
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