ATLANTA - Award-winning actor Sir Ian McKellen got the attention of Georgia politicians Wednesday with a quote in a gossip column saying the state's Republican governor bestowed the outspoken gay-rights activist with a military-style title.
But a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said it's not so. He said the star of Lord of the Rings and The Da Vinci Code might be referring to an honor he received from another Georgia governor more than 10 years ago.
In Wednesday's New York Daily News, Mr. McKellen is quoted as saying he was honored by Mr. Perdue while in Atlanta promoting The Da Vinci Code earlier this year.
"The governor made me a lieutenant colonel in the gubernatorial force," Mr. McKellen is quoted as saying in the Rush & Molloy gossip column. "So the 'don't ask, don't tell' rule obviously didn't apply to me. I have a lovely certificate hanging in my office. So, inadvertently, they made me the poster child for having openly gay people in the military."
His comment refers to the U.S. military's rule against openly gay members. Mr. McKellen has spoken out on gay-rights issues since proclaiming in the late 1980s that he is gay.
Perdue spokesman Dan McLagan said Mr. Perdue awarded Mr. McKellen no such rank. Mr. McLagan suggested the British actor, knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1991, might have been referring to a previous Georgia honor.
A June 2000 post on the actor's Web site says Mr. McKellen received the Georgia title while promoting his 1995 movie, Richard III. The message links to the image of a proclamation, apparently signed by former Gov. Zell Miller, naming Mr. McKellen "Lieutenant Colonel, Aide de Camp, Governor's Staff."
Mr. McLagan quickly added that his disclaimer was not intended as a slight to the Academy Award-nominated actor.
"All that being said, this guy is Gandalf and Magneto rolled into one," he said referring to Mr. McKellen's Lord of the Rings and X-Men roles. "If he wants to join forces with Georgia when we must battle evil, we welcome him."
A spokeswoman for Mr. McKellen said he was traveling from Los Angeles to London on Wednesday and could not be reached.
Publicist Clair Dobbs said she did not recall Mr. McKellen making the Daily News comment during a publicity tour for The Da Vinci Code and that he did not visit Atlanta during the tour.