Richard Chamberlain, who shot to fame as ‘Dr Kildare’ and later starred in several US TV hits including ‘The Thorn Birds’ and ‘Shogun’ and currently playing an HIV-positive gay man in the drama ‘Brother & Sisters’ had warned fellow gay actors not to come out unless they want it to harm their careers.

There had been rumours of 76-year-old Chamberlain’s homosexuality for years in Hollywood, but the actor said he chose not to speak out about his sexuality out of fear of losing leading man roles. He came out at the age of 69.

The actor told The Advocate: “There’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture. It’s regrettable, it’s stupid, it’s heartless, and it’s immoral, but there it is.

“For an actor to be working is a kind of miracle, because most actors aren’t, so it’s just silly for a working actor to say, ‘Oh, I don’t care if anybody knows I’m gay’ — especially if you’re a leading man. Personally, I wouldn’t advise a gay leading man–type actor to come out.”

Asked when an actor could come out, Chamberlain said: “I have no idea. Despite all the wonderful advances that have been made, it’s still dangerous for an actor to talk about that in our extremely misguided culture. Look at what happened in California with Proposition 8. Please, don’t pretend that we’re suddenly all wonderfully, blissfully accepted.”

Gay actor Rupert Everett has hit out against discrimination in Hollywood before. In 2006, he said: “Without doubt gays are discriminated against in show business. The straight one gets to walk down a red carpet with a beautiful girl and everything works out and the gay one has to back-pedal and do independent movies. Yet everything Hugh Grant does, I could be in.”

British star and Stonewall co-founder also spoke out against discrimination in Hollywood. In 2006, he told an audience at the Berlin Film Festival: “The film industry is very old fashioned in California. 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.”

Last year, ‘The Office’ star Martin Freeman said :”The funny thing about the acting business is that there are more poofs in it than you can have hot dinners thrown at you. But no one is out. It’s not so bad here [the UK], but in Hollywood …Why don’t they just admit it? In this so-called liberal industry, no one has the guts to come out because of the box office, but someone has to be first in the firing line.”