Harriet Walter, Sir Ian McKellen and David Tennant perform on stage as part of a special production of Shakespeare Live! from the RSC on April 23, 2016 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

On February 23, BBC’s Evan Davis interviewed actor Ian McKellen for National Student Pride, an annual LGBTQ celebration in the U.K. During the interview, Davis asked McKellen about the #MeToo movement.

DAVIS: It must be pretty depressing when you pick up your newspaper and you see people you’ve worked with – Bryan Singer or whoever, Kevin Spacey – and you see the names of people being fingered or allegations swirling around. I just wonder what your reaction is as you see this unleashed on the world in the last 18 months?

MCKELLEN: Well frankly, I’m waiting for someone to accuse me of something, and me wondering whether they’re not telling the truth and me having forgotten, you know.

But with the couple of names you’ve mentioned, people I worked with, both of them were in the closet, and 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.

Whether they should be forced to stop working – that’s debatable, isn’t it? I rather think that’s up to the public. Do you want to see someone who has 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. And it’s difficult to be absolutely black and white.

After his response gained widespread media coverage, McKellen issued an apology in which he suggested that he had “clumsily expressed” his intended remarks:

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. 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. I deeply regret my careless remarks and apologise unreservedly for any distress I caused. When it comes to abuse by people in positions of power, the correct response is clear. 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.

Director Bryan Singer, whose films include “The Usual Suspects” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” has been accused of molestation, sexual assault, and rape by multiple men, some of whom were underage when the alleged sexual encounters took place.

In October 2017, actor Kevin Spacey was accused by fellow actor Anthony Rapp of an having made an unwanted sexual advance on him when he was just 14 years old. Following Rapp’s allegations, a number of other men accused Spacey of sexual misconduct.

Spacey attempted to soften the allegation from Rapp by coming out as gay.

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