Ian McKellen is apologizing after he made controversial comments about the sexual assault allegations that have been leveled against Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer.
The 79-year-old actor released a statement on Twitter on Saturday, saying that his comments were “wrong.”
“As part of an extended podcast recently, I suggested that if closeted people were instead open about their sexuality they wouldn’t abuse others. That, of course, is wrong,” he wrote. “My intention was to encourage the LGBT audience I was addressing, to be proud and open about their sexuality. In doing so, my point was clumsily expressed. I would never, ever trivialise or condone abuse of any kind.”
“When it comes to abuse by people in positions of power, the correct response is clear,” McKellen continued. “The accusers must be heard and the accused given the opportunity to clear their names. If the accusations prove credible, the abuser’s access to power should be removed.”
During a recent live recording of the #QueerAF podcast, the actor was asked to share his thoughts on the #MeToo movement, with the interviewer specifically mentioning Spacey and Singer, both of whom McKellen has worked with in the past.
“With the couple of names you mentioned of people I worked with, both of them were in the closet,” the openly gay actor said. “Hence all their problems as people and their relationship with other people. If they had been able to be open about themselves and their desires, they wouldn’t have started abusing people in the way they’re being accused.”
Spacey, 59, who previously served as the artistic director at London’s Old Vic theatre, came out as gay in October of last year, after Anthony Rapp accused the actor of making inappropriate sexual advances toward him when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26.
Many organizations and people have spoken out to condemn the conflation of gay sexuality and pedophilia, including McKellen himself, who previously criticized Spacey for coming out as gay in his statement about the accusations, calling it “reprehensible because it linked alleged underage sex with a declaration of sexuality.”
Singer, 53, who directed McKellen in two X-Men films and 1998’s Apt Pupil, came out as bisexual in 2014, shortly before aspiring model and actor Michael Egan filed a civil suit against the director, claiming he forced him into sex during parties in California and Hawaii in the late 1990s. The suit was ultimately dropped.
Without prompting, McKellen went on to share that he didn’t necessarily believe that everyone who has had allegations made against them “should be forced to stop working.”
“That’s debatable,” he said. “I think that’s rather up to the public. Do you want to see someone who’s been accused of something that you don’t approve of? Do you ever want to see them again? If the answer is no, you won’t buy a ticket, you won’t turn on the television. But there may be others for whom that’s not a consideration. It’s difficult to be absolutely black and white.”
McKellen made similar comments regarding Spacey last year.
During an interview with BBC’s Today, the actor avoided directly answering whether he thought Spacey should act again, saying, “You’re asking me if I believe in redemption? Yes, I believe in redemption, of course.”
Pressed to comment on Spacey directly, McKellen said, “The only thing I would say about Mr. Spacey was that he was a gay man, and he was pretending not to be.”
“And I always thought it a bit distasteful that such a person would come to our country — where the National Theatre at the time was being run by a gay man, and the Royal Shakespeare by another — that we should have a closeted gay man at the center of British theater,” he continued, adding, “You get into problems, don’t you, if you lie, if you pretend.”
In December of last year, Spacey was charged with felony sexual assault from an alleged 2016 incident in a Massachusetts bar involving an 18-year-old bus boy. The actor has pleaded not guilty.
Singer, who has previously denied allegations of abuse in the past, was recently the subject of a report from The Atlantic involving allegations from men who accused the X-Men director of seducing and having sexual relations with them while they were minors — one as young as 13.
Singer’s lawyer Andrew Brettler told The Atlantic that the director categorically denies ever having sex with, or a preference for, underage men. The lawyer also noted that Singer has never been arrested for or charged with any crime.
In light of the allegations, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) suspended Singer’s nomination in the outstanding British film category (similar to the Oscars‘ Best Picture) for Bohemian Rhapsody just four days before the ceremony was set to air.
Last month, the film’s GLAAD Media Award was revoked in light of the allegations against Singer.