UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — Ian McKellen said he's fine that the full-frontal nude scene he played on stage as King Lear is missing from an upcoming public TV version.
An actor who takes his clothes off can divert an audience's attention from the drama itself, said the British actor known for "Lord of the Rings" and the "X-Men" films.
"If it's a distraction of that sort, it's not worth the candle," McKellen told a meeting of the Television Critics Association on Wednesday.
David Horn, executive producer of the "Great Performances" series presenting the play for PBS, said he and Trevor Nunn, director of the acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production, made the decision to "suggest" the nudity.
McKellen took the opportunity to reconsider how he played the moment in theaters.
"Every night, when I'd take my clothes off, you know what I used to do? Pull in my stomach. That's pathetic. I was playing an old man. I should have let it all hang out, and I couldn't do that," said the actor, who turns 70 this year.
He had fun with a reporter who asked him if fans recognized him from the stage or from "The Lord of the Flies."
"Well, if they say `Lord of the Flies,' I put them right. They often say, `Hi, Dumbledore,' and I say, `No, no, that's Mike Gambon. I play the real wizard, the best wizard,'" McKellen said. He referred to Michael Gambon's film role as the "Harry Potter" headmaster.
The confusion might be understandable, said a wry McKellen, because Potter author J.K. Rowling "has announced that Dumbledore is gay, hasn't she?"
McKellen has been an outspoken gay-rights activist since declaring he was gay in the late 1980s.
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