Sir Ian McKellen 'advised not to go to Russia'

Sir Ian McKellen Sir Ian will return for the second series of ITV's Vicious

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Sir Ian McKellen has said he was advised "not to go to Russia" by the Foreign Office because of the country's homosexuality laws.

"That's why I can't go... they couldn't protect me from those laws," Sir Ian, 74, told the Radio Times.

"Two and a half hours from London! In the land of Tchaikovsky, Diaghilev, Rudolf Nureyev - gay artists whose sexuality informed their work."

The actor came out as being gay at the age of 49.

Russia passed a law in June which can result in heavy fines for anyone providing information about homosexuality to people under 18.

Critics say its loose interpretation effectively hinders any kind of public gay rights event in Russia.

Sir Ian also hit back at comments made by Homeland star Damian Lewis in a Guardian interview earlier this year.

Start Quote

I wouldn't like to have been one of those actors who hit stardom quite early on and expected it to continue”

End Quote Sir Ian McKellen

Lewis said he did not want to end up "as one of those slightly over-the-top, fruity actors who would have an illustrious career on stage, but wouldn't start getting any kind of film work until I was 50 and then start playing wizards".

While not naming names, the comments were widely thought to have been aimed at actors like Sir Ian, who played the wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, and Michael Gambon, who played Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise.

Sir Ian told the magazine: "So he feels sorry for me, does he? Well, I'm very happy, he needn't worry about me", although he did agree Lewis's remark was "fair comment".

However, he went on to say: "To rebut it, I wouldn't like to have been one of those actors who hit stardom quite early on and expected it to continue and was stuck doing scripts that I didn't particularly like just to keep the income up.

"I've always wanted to get better as an actor. And I have got better. You've only got to see my early work to see that."

Regarding the "fruity voice" comment, Sir Ian said: "Well, it may be a voice that is trained like an opera singer's voice: to fill a large space. It is unnatural."

He added: "To be allowed for the first time in your later career to play leading parts in extremely popular movies is not a situation to worry about."

Sir Ian also admitted his performance in ITV show Vicious was "over the top" and he would tone it down for the second series.

He said he was over acting for the benefit of the live studio audience.

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