In December, Elliot Page announced to the world that they’re transgender and non-binary, which was met with overwhelming support by fans and celebrities alike. Ian McKellen, however, who previously worked with Page on X-Men: The Last Stand, has now admitted disappointment in himself for not realizing they were struggling with their identity at the time.
When speaking to LGBT-oriented culture magazine Attitude 101, McKellen recounted an interaction he had with Page during the filming of the superhero misfire that he now wishes he had navigated differently, saying:
“I remember Elliot Page, in one of the X-Men, sat as close as we are now. And I had to speak when they’d finished, and I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Nobody could hear what they were saying. So, I said, ‘Look, if you can’t speak up, would you mind when you’re finished speaking, just dropping your hand so I know when you’ve finished speaking?’ And then they came out [as gay] years later and suddenly you couldn’t stop them talking. You heard everything. And now… they’re Elliot. And I’m so happy for Elliot. And so disappointed in myself that I didn’t detect what their difficulty was with communicating.”
Page, who was 18 at the time, would not come out as gay for another eight years (although was outed on set in a vile comment from director Brett Ratner) and was likely unsure who they were at such a young age, which would have contributed to their introversion, as McKellen went on to suggest.
“Everything gets better [when you come out] because you get self-confidence. So you get better in terms of relationships, friends of all sorts, family, if you’re lucky. And in my case, I think in every case, your acting is bound to change and improve.”
Although his orientation had been known to his theater colleagues for years, McKellen came out publicly in 1988 in response to Section 28, a controversial piece of UK legislation that barred local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality, the intent being to make it effectively illegal for schoolteachers to acknowledge that gay people existed as anything other than a dirty secret, forcing thousands of kids in the ‘90s to grow up closeted.
Since their breakout role as a teenage pedophile hunter in 2005’s Hard Candy, Page has been nominated for dozens of awards and won about half of them. Bearing this in mind, if as McKellen suggests, their capacity to act to their full ability was being hindered by uncertainty of their identity, then going forward, Page will likely become even more of a force to be reckoned with.