Sir Ian McKellen has shared his thoughts on the idea that only gay actors should be cast to play roles of gay characters.
The Lord of the Rings star shared his thoughts during an interview with Amol Rajan on the host's new show on BBC2.
McKellen - who first publically announced he was gay during a BBC radio interview back in 1988 - commented on the issue when asked about the backlash Helen Mirren recently faced after being cast as Israel's first female leader, Golda Meir.
Some people took umbrage to the fact that Mirren is not Jewish, and therefore should not have been cast in the role.
Sharing his thoughts on the matter, McKellen said that he supported Mirren's casting as Meir, adding that he believes a non-Jewish person can play the role of a Jewish person.[[imagecaption|| Credit: PA Images / Alamy]]
The 82-year-old actor said: "There are two things – is the argument that a gentile cannot play a Jew, and is the argument therefore that a Jew cannot play a gentile?"
McKellen then likened the argument to that of straight actors playing gay roles.
He asked: "Is the argument that a straight man cannot play a gay part, and if so, does that mean I can't play straight parts and I'm not allowed to explore the fascinating subject of heterosexuality in Macbeth? Surely not.
"We're acting. We're pretending."
The argument has been widely reported and commented on over the last few years, with screenwriter Russell T Davies telling the New York Times: "It is not a fair playing field.
"The equality notion is based on 50 percent this way, 50 percent that way. But 90 percent of actors are straight and 10 percent of parts are gay."
Mirren told the Daily Mail that she had questioned accepting the role of Meir due to the fact she was not Jewish, revealing: "It was certainly a question that I had, before I accepted the role."[[imagecaption|| Mirren as Meir. Credit: Everett Collection Inc / Alamy]]
She added: "I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had – it's utterly legitimate."
Similar to McKellen, she then questioned: "You know, if someone who's not Jewish can't play Jewish, does someone who's Jewish play someone who's not Jewish?"
It is an important discussion to be had - so let us know your thoughts in the comments section.