Sir Ian McKellen became an actor to meet men.

The 70-year-old actor - who announced he was homosexual in 1988 - admits he felt isolated when he was younger, but thought he would meet other gay people if he embarked on a stage career.

He said: "I'd heard that a lot of professional actors were gay. Acting seemed like a chance for me to meet like-minded people.

"You know, at that time same-sex love in Britain got you into prison. Homosexuality was being completely hushed up. Gay teachers, politicians or firemen - that was something unthinkable.

"When I was young I thought I was the only gay Brit. That's why I was glad to find people like me in the actors guild."

The 'Lord of the Rings' star also revealed he lost out on one role because of his sexuality, but insists he has no regret about being open about it.

He added to Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper: "I remember losing only one job because of my coming-out. I was supposed to play one of the lead roles in Harold Pinter's 'Betrayal' who eventually were given to Ben Kingsley and Jeremy Irons. The producer Sam Spiegel dropped a sexist comment about wives during a meeting and when I replied I was fortunate to be gay I was quickly shown the door.

"I didn't care, though. I know back then my agent strongly advised me against coming out. A lot of my friends thought it was very courageous. For me it was simply inevitable.

"I'm not urging anyone to do the same, but the alternative option is horrible: lies, fear, secrecy. Every self-confessed homosexual I have met assured me his coming-out was the best decision of his life."