by the Forward

Sir Ian Knows What It?s Like

His years as a closeted gay man gave actor Ian McKellen an understanding, he says, of Jews who hid during the Holocaust.

?It was horrible living this secret life,? the two-time Oscar nominee says in the current issue of Details magazine. ?You could feel a little bit what it was like to be a Jew in central Europe during a certain period. It was horrible.?

The comments generated a few lines of condemnation on the Web site of the conservative Weekly Standard, which headlined one of its posts, ?Holocaust Comparisons the Left Is Happy To Countenance.? The piece alleged a double standard among liberals who have criticized opponents of President Obama?s health care plan by likening it to the Nazi genocide.

Whatever the accuracy of his analogy, McKellen may have been drawing on a career that has consistently featured both World War II-inspired roles and characters concealing their true identity. Perhaps best known to moviegoers as Gandalf from ?The Lord of the Rings? films, the actor starred 30 years ago in the London premiere of ?Bent,? a play about a gay German man who pretends to be Jewish after being sent to a concentration camp. McKellen later gained a mainstream following by starring in the X-Men movies as Magneto, a character warped by his status as a child survivor of the Holocaust.

Open about his sexuality for the past two decades, McKellen also says in Details that he and friends make a practice of tearing out Leviticus 18:22 ? the biblical passage that describes homosexuality as an ?abomination? ? when staying in hotels: ?I?m not proudly defacing the book, but it?s a choice between removing that page and throwing away the whole Bible.?

This story "Sir Ian Knows What It?s Like" was written by Nathan Burstein.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Sir Ian Knows What It?s Like

Thank you!

This article has been sent!