Star Wars star Alec Guinness ‘begged’ Ian McKellen not to advocate for gay rights because he hated himself for being bisexual.
McKellen made the revelation as he addressed an historic LGBTI Pride gala dinner last night (25 June), held for the first time in the Lord Mayor of London’s Mansion House.
Guinness is famous for having played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars and Fagin in Oliver Twist. But despite being married he is reported to have had male partners and to have once been arrested for sex in a public toilet in Liverpool in 1946.
McKellen alluded to his fellow actor’s bisexuality when he told guests at the gala: ‘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.’
But McKellen argued it was important to stand up and be counted as members of the LGBTI community.
‘What the Stonewall riots taught is if you want something done you have to do it yourself. You cannot rely on anyone else,’ he said.
McKellen was also criticized for not doing even more when he first came out, from leading film director, artist and gardener Derek Jarman.
He said: ‘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.’
McKellen said his wish for the future was for a top professional soccer player in the UK to come out as gay.
He added: ‘My preference is that he is cute.’
The dinner was hosted by The Lord Mayor, Fiona Woolf. Only the second woman to hold the job since 1189, she has dedicated her year in office to promoting diversity.
The Lord Mayor is selected by the City of London, the central financial district, while London also has a politically elected mayor for the whole of the UK capital, Boris Johnson.
She reflected the historic significance of an LGBTI dinner being held in Mansion House in her speech.
She said: ‘This is a clear statement of intent by the mayoralty and the City of London Corporation. Our responsibility is to capture the benefits of diversity for the city and for business.
‘The business case is clear and the moral case is obvious. To be yourself and not someone you are not is a human right.’
Pride takes place in London on Saturday (28 June). Gay Star News is global media partner of Pride in London.