"As a representative of the industry they're in, it's receiving complaints which I fully sympathize with," the actor, 76, told Sky News when asked for comment about the fact that the Academy has nominated only white actors for the second year in a row.
"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 at the moment." he added.
McKellen, who is openly gay, elaborated on those statements to The Guardian: "If you are trying to have a career, as a black or Hispanic actor in a state – California – where white people are now the minority, and you are being judged by an Academy where the vast majority are white, male, middle-aged and old," he noted. "Well, perhaps that is the wrong yardstick."
While the U.K. native has been nominated twice for Oscars – first as gay director James Whale in Gods and Monsters (1999) and later as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings (2002) – he points out that no openly gay person has ever taken home the award.
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"No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance," he said, while pointing out that several straight actors – like Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman – have won the award for portraying gay characters.
"How clever, how clever," McKellen mused. "What about giving me one for playing a straight man?"
For each of his nominations, the actor revealed he had speeches prepared that began, " 'I'm proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar,' " he said. "I've had to put it back in my pocket twice."