By 3 News online staff
English actor Sir Ian McKellen has told Prime Minister John Key he should "watch his language", following Mr Key's quip that a radio host's shirt was a "gay red top".
McKellen, famous for his role as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movies, writes in a post on his website that "careless talk damages lives".
"I'm currently touring schools in the UK attacking homophobia in the playground and discouraging kids from the careless use of 'gay', which might make their gay friends (and teachers) feel less about themselves," says McKellen.
"So even as he supports the proposal to introduce same-gender marriages in New Zealand, I do hope John Key listens to his critics and appreciates their concern. Careless talk damages lives."
McKellen, who himself is gay, introduced the topic by saying New Zealand has an "undeserved reputation" for "living a little in the past".
"As a regular visitor, I've often pointed out how, on social issues, the Kiwis have lead the world - first country to give women the vote, a nuclear-free stronghold and in the vanguard of civil rights for gay people."
Green Party MP Kevin Hague, also gay, has called on Mr Key to apologise. Mr Key yesterday defended his usage of the word, saying it meant "weird".
"Young people use it all the time,' he told media. "I don't think many people would be offended by it but if anyone is, I apologise."
Mr Hague however said gay New Zealanders "don't take too kindly to being called weird".
"I think there's a real problem with the Prime Minister making that sort of remark," Mr Hague told NZ Newswire.
"I'm sure he meant it as some sort of light-hearted and inoffensive comment, but the fact is that the basis for the comment is in homophobia... with all of those negative traits of being hopeless or awful, terrible, useless."
Mr Key made the comments on Friday, the same day he said footballer David Beckham was "thick as batshit".