Cannes Lions: Ian McKellen, Gary Reich Launch Short-Film Project for LGBT Stories

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Ian McKellen

Facebook is on board as the broadcast partner of the planned project.

Ian McKellen and Vicious producer Gary Reich launched a call for brands and broadcasters to back a planned series of short-form films aimed at LGBT youth. The pair, along with The Brooklyn Brothers agency founder Jackie Stevenson, are set to create a series of four films built around and by people in the LGBT community.

Facebook is on board to be the broadcast partner for the first film, with the premiere to be streamed live on the platform. The social network will support the film with targeted outreach and community support.

"I've been impressed with gay rights all over the world, how much commerce wants to be involved," McKellen told The Hollywood Reporter. "Hollywood, to crudely sum it up, has tended to deal with fantasy, tended to deal with escape. Branding has to be up to date otherwise. [Brands] come up with a response to the world as it really is. It's a much different approach to anything that Hollywood would do."

McKellen, who has resisted working with brand partners throughout his career, cited the attempt by Coca-Cola's Dasani water to recruit him in the mid-2000s for its U.K. launch. "I thought, 'I can't. I feel I'm selling my soul, and my soul is worth more than this,'" he explained. He said he's now willing to work with brands to back these films because of their response to gay rights around the world.

"In Hollywood to get something done takes such a long time, whereas brands move quickly, and we feel they can tell these great and true stories," added Stevenson.

"We can align very quickly, and then in terms of the talent that is waiting in the wings — there are lots of key really big pieces of talent," added Reich.

They said they are already in talks with "A-list directors," including the Wachowskis and Tom Ford to direct corresponding films for the project called LGBT Heroes. McKellen is on board, as are other acting talents, Reich said.

McKellen also sang the praises of Facebook, noting that during his lifetime there were still censors that banned gay-themed content in the U.K., and they continue to exist in many countries around the world.

"Facebook, forget it. Facebook is about the real world and people really communicating with each other and talking with each other as individuals defining themselves, not wanting labels, not wanting authority shaking the finger. Because if we watch and listen to the shaking finger, the world wouldn't have advanced. I think it is democracy in action, free spirit in action, I am what I am in action. That's why I support it," he said.

During an earlier presentation, they debuted a short animated film depicting McKellen as a gay Superman locked in an embrace with his partner before flying off to save the world. The team is calling for submissions on LGBTheroes.info.

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