© Carl Sukonik / The Vain Photography

There’s a reason he’s a national treasure, you know.

As well as starring in blockbuster franchises like X-Men and The Lord Of The Rings, 78-year-old Ian McKellen has a decade-spanning career in Shakespearian theatre, making him one of the most versatile actors of our time.

But despite this, Ian believes it’s his work for LGBT+ rights that’s the “most important” achievement of his life.

During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter at the Rome Film Fest last week, the acting legend was asked whether he wants to be remembered more by his political activism or his artistry.

“I do a lot of theatre, and theatre is just for now, it’s just for today,” he explained. “Tonight you know, it’s over, it’s finished, it’s not recorded. Now cinema is quite different, film is eternal as you are.

“But I do notice, don’t you, that when you look at old films the actors may look young but their acting is rather old-fashioned.

“In other words there are fashions in acting, and with very few exceptions ones work actually looks worse and worse as the years go by.”

He continued: “I’m very proud of my small contributions to changing the law in this country and changing attitudes, all for the better.

“I suppose in the scheme of things that is more important and has more merit and [will be] longer lasting than any acting that I have done. But that is more for other people to judge, isn’t it?”

Earlier this year, Ian revealed the heartbreaking reason he turned down the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series after the death of Richard Harris, who played the headteacher in the first two movies.

“I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I’d known hadn’t approved of me,” he explained.

Related: Ian McKellen says he wants a gay 007 for a “more truthful” James Bond movie