McKellen was discussing his latest role as "Number Two," in AMC's reinvention of the Cold War show "The Prisoner." The liberal actor told Associated Press that his character embodies "the drawbacks of capitalism."
"Capitalism offers you freedom, but far from giving people freedom, it enslaves them. That's part of the show's message," McKellen said.
That's a very different message from the 1960s original British television series which pitted individual rights and freedom against collectivism and state control.
Reason magazine explained the libertarian leanings of the show on Jan. 15, 2009. They wrote that Patrick McGoohan, creator and star of the TV series, once told New Video magazine about his alter-ego Number 6: "He shouldn't have to answer to anyone. It's entirely his prerogative, his God-given right as an individual, to proceed in any way he sees fit. That's the whole point of it all."
McKellen has ruffled feathers in the past for remarks made while promoting his films. In 2006, the "Da Vinci Code" star told "Today" that the Bible needed a "disclaimer."
"Well, I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying this is fiction. I mean, walking on water, it takes an act of faith," McKellen said.
AMC's version of "The Prisoner" is set to air Nov. 15-18 as a six-hour miniseries.