The Homeland actor Damian Lewis has apologised to Sir Ian McKellen after saying he did not want to end up a "fruity actor" who is known for playing wizards.
Lewis, 42, admitted he was "hugely embarrassed" after McKellen, 74, who plays the wizard Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit films, responsed acerbically in the Radio Times.
Lewis issued a statement on Wednesday night, saying: "I am hugely embarrassed that comments of mine have been linked in a negative way to Sir Ian McKellen. I have always been, and continue to be, an enormous fan and admirer of Sir Ian's.
"He's one of the greats and one of the reasons I became an actor. My comment in the Guardian was a soundbite I've been giving since 1999 – it was a generic analogy that was never intended to demean or describe anyone else's career. I have contacted Sir Ian McKellen and have given him my sincerest apologies."
McKellen, one of Britain's best-loved stage and screen actors with a career spanning decades, admitted that his performance in this year's critically panned ITV sitcom Vicious was "over the top" but added that "no one needs to feel sorry for me" after Lewis described one of the reasons why he wanted to break out of the theatre.
While not naming names, Lewis, who plays Marine-turned-terrorist-turned-Marine Nicholas Brody in the US show Homeland, said that in his 20s he worried that if he did not get out of the theatre in time, "I would be one of these 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".
Sir Ian told the Radio Times: "So he feels sorry for me, does he? Well I'm very happy, he needn't worry about me."
The X-Men star, whose screen success came relatively late, said the remark was "a fair comment". But he added: "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. As for a fruity voice? Well, it may be a voice that is trained like an opera singer's voice: to fill a large space. It is unnatural. Actors have to be heard and their voice may therefore develop a sonorous quality that they can't quite get rid of, so you think actors are as pompous as their voice is large. I suppose Damian was thinking of that a little bit, too."
He told the magazine: "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. No one needs to feel sorry for me or Michael Gambon [who played Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies] or anyone else who has fallen victim to success."
McKellen, who is starring in two plays on Broadway, Harold Pinter's No Man's Land and Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot, said he was not happy with his performance in the first series of this year's ITV drama Vicious. McKellen starred with Sir Derek Jacobi as a sharp-tongued gay couple in the series, which is returning for a second instalment despite the negative reviews.
"If people thought it was a rather over-the-top performance, they were right," he said, saying that he was acting too much for the live studio audience, and that things would be different in series two.
Sir Ian, who came out as gay at the age of 49, also told the magazine that he had sympathy for gay A-list stars who decide to keep their sexuality a secret.
"It's true of A-lists all over the world – A-list priests, A-list politicians. What will other people think? Will people still vote for me? Will people come and see me act? They're warned by the people who surround them – agents and managers, who have a living to make and are worried that the actor will get pigeonholed."
But he added: "I don't think the audience gives a damn. You don't have to be straight to play Gandalf. Anyway, who says that Gandalf isn't gay? I loved it when JK Rowling said that Dumbledore was gay."
McKellen said he had been advised by the Foreign Office not to go to Russia because of the country's laws on homosexuality. "That's why I can't go to Russia. They couldn't protect me from those laws. Two and a half hours from London. In the land of Tchaikovsky, Diaghilev, Rudolf Nureyev – gay artists whose sexuality informed their work," he said.
Good boy. tbh I think that the media was just trying to stir shit up even though his comments were still assy.
But don't let it happen again Brody.