THE LORD OF THE RINGS star Ian McKellen is urging gay actors to come out and let the world know they're gay, if they're serious about having successful careers.

The 66-year-old actor has been open about his homosexuality for a number of years, and he believes that the several gay actors pretending to be straight are only hurting their progress.

He says, "By the time I came out, I was in my late 40s and I was fed up with worrying about what other people thought, and confident enough in my career to suspect that it wasn't going to make any difference at all. I was absolutely wrong.

"I became a better actor, and my film career took off in a way that I couldn't have expected. You can't lie about something so central to yourself without harming yourself.

"Acting in my case is no longer about disguise - it's about telling the truth, and my truth is that I'm gay. I'm very happy for people to know that, and then I can get on with telling the truth about the character that I'm playing.

"That's why I can say to other actors: if you really want to be a good actor and a successful one, and you're gay, let everybody know about it."