Sir Ian McKellen, the openly gay star of the Lord of the Rings has criticised Hollywood’s attitude to homosexuality during a speech at the Berlin Film Festival.

Sir Ian who was receiving a lifetime achievement award said that it was very hard for gay actors in America to be open about their sexuality.

“The film industry is very old fashioned in California,” he said. “It is very, very, very difficult for an American actor who wants a film career to be open about his sexuality. And even more difficult for a woman if she’s lesbian.

“It’s very distressing to me that that should be the case,” he added. “It’s not true of actors on the other side of the American continent, on Broadway, where people are very at ease with being open and honest.”

Sir Ian, 66, collected an honorary Golden Bear, the festival’s top prize, at a ceremony yesterday.

The actor claimed that it was only after he came out as gay in 1988 that his career took off.

“This has been a landmark year for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusive films,” Neil G Giuliano, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation commented on a year that has seen the phenomenal success of Brokeback Mountain and the drama, TransAmerica.

“These are films with an emotional authenticity that have clearly connected with both gay and straight audiences alike.

“By telling our stories, this year’s Oscar nominees have helped raise the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and have given millions of Americans a greater understanding of who we are.”