The two-time Academy Award nominee, who is openly gay, told Britain's Sky News
that he believes the Oscars diversity problem is "legitimate."
"As a representative of the industry they're in, it's receiving complaints which I fully sympathize with," said McKellen. "It's not only black people who've been disregarded by the film industry, it used to be women, it's certainly gay people to this day."
"And these are all legitimate complaints and the Oscars are the focus of those complaints of course."
McKellen also pointed out to U.K.'s The Guardian
that no openly gay man has taken home an Academy Award.
"No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar. I wonder if that is prejudice or chance,” he said.
Candidly tying the issue to his own struggles to break through, the acclaimed actor addressed the fact that several straight males have received Oscars for portraying gay men, "How clever. What about giving me one for playing a straight man?"
"My speech has been in two jackets … 'I’m proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar,'" McKellen heartbreakingly added. "I’ve had to put it back in my pocket twice."
McKellen was first nominated in 1999 for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Gods and Monsters, losing out to Roberto Benigni for Life Is Beautiful. Then in 2002, McKellen came up short on his Supporting Actor nomination for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Jim Broadbent won that year for Iris.
The all-white group of Oscar acting nominees for the second year in a row has prompted significant backlash and calls for a boycott from this year's Academy Awards. In response to the outrage, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who told ET the lack of diversity at the Oscars was "disappointing," announced sweeping changes aimed at doubling the amount of "diverse members" by 2020.
Meanwhile, amid the outrage, Academy Awards producer Reginald Hudlin said that the Oscar host was "writing a new show," which Chris Rock responded to in a statement via his rep.
"Regarding Reggie Hudlin's comments about Chris Rock's Oscar hosting duties, neither he nor anyone else speaks for Chris," the statement to ET reads. "Chris has made no decisions about the content of the show. All will be revealed on Feb. 28."