Damian Lewis has apologised to Sir Ian McKellen for saying he did not want to end up like a “fruity actor” who is known for playing wizards.

In a statement the Homeland star said: “I am hugely embarrassed that comments of mine have been linked in a negative way to Sir Ian McKellen. I have always been, and continue to be, an enormous fan and admirer of Sir Ian’s.

“He’s one of the greats and one of the reasons I became an actor. My comment in the Guardian was a soundbite I’ve been giving since 1999 – it was a generic analogy that was never intended to demean or describe anyone else’s career. I have contacted Sir Ian McKellen and have given him my sincerest apologies.”

The actor did not mention any names during his Guardian interview but voiced his intention never to become “one of these slightly over-the-top, fruity actors who would have an illustrious career on stage, but wouldn’t start getting any kind of film work” until later in life.

Lewis admitted he was “hugely embarrassed” after Sir Ian, famous for his iconic Gandalf role in the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit films, hit back with a response in the Radio Times.

“So he feels sorry for me, does he? Well, I’m very happy, he needn’t worry about me”, Sir Ian added: “I wouldn’t like to have been one of those actors who hit stardom quite early on and expected it to continue and was stuck doing scripts that I didn’t particularly like just to keep the income up.

“I’ve always wanted to get better as an actor. And I have got better. You’ve only got to see my early work to see that.”

Regarding the “fruity voice” comment, Sir Ian said: “Well, it may be a voice that is trained like an opera singer’s voice: to fill a large space. It is unnatural.”

He added: “To be allowed for the first time in your later career to play leading parts in extremely popular movies is not a situation to worry about.”

Sir Ian also admitted his performance in this year’s ITV sitcom Vicious was “over the top” and that he would tone it down for the second series.

“If people thought it was a rather over-the-top performance, they were right,” he said, saying that he was acting too much for the live studio audience.

The gay actor told the Radio Times: “If I look at my early films, I’m using what seems to me now to be a ridiculous voice. Over the years, I’ve relaxed and let my own accent come back in.”