Sir Ian McKellen has reacted to the race row that has many questioning the validity of the Academy Awards.

The 76-year-old actor – who has been nominated for an Oscar twice – said he “fully sympathises” with the complaints from black actors who have challenged the lack of diversity at this year’s awards.

However, McKellen added that the black community were not the only minority “disregarded” by the film industry.

For the second year in a row, all 20 nominees in the major acting categories are white, cisgender and straight.

“The Oscars have a very special place in the lives of American actors, even more so than here,” he said on Sky News today (January 25).

“As a representative of the industry they are in, the film industry is receiving complaints that I fully sympathise with.”

“It’s not only black people who have been disregarded by the film industry, it used to be women and certainly gay people to this day,” he added.

“These are all legitimate complaints, and the Oscars is the focus of these complaints at the moment.”

McKellen is one of only three LGBT people who have been nominated for an acting Academy award since coming out.

Jaye Davidson was nominated for his role in ‘The Crying Game’, and Angelina Jolie – who is bisexual – won an award for her role in ‘Girl Interrupted’ and a nomination for ‘The Changeling’.

The Lord Of The Rings star recently explained why it took him so long to speak publicly about his sexuality, saying it was “the right time” for him to join the fight for LGBT rights.

“Everything in society was against people of my generation coming out, because it was against the law to make love,” he explained.

“So if every time you have sex you remind yourself you’re a criminal, that’s not something you necessarily want to talk about unless you’re a really, really strong and brave person which I wasn’t.

“A law was being passed I didn’t approve of which disadvantaged gay people, and that’s when I came out,” McKellen told Charlie Rose last month.

“And it was just the right time for me, because, 49, I was confident as an actor, as a person. And I could organise a sentence and make a case and feel passionate about it.”