The Lord of the Rings star was asked during a TV interview about the recent furore over the 2016 Academy Awards after several stars criticised organisers because no black actors were nominated for the major honours.

He responded by admitting he has a lot of sympathy for any stars who feel they have been wrongly left off the shortlist, but he is adamant discrimination has long been a feature of Hollywood, with female stars and gay actors also shunned at awards ceremonies.

Sir Ian tells Sky News, "The Oscars have a very special place in the lives of American actors, even more so than here (in Britain). As a representation of the industry they are in, it's receiving complaints which I fully sympathise with. It's not only black people who have been disregarded by the film industry - it used to be women, it's certainly gay people to this day, and these are all legitimate complaints."

The 2016 Oscars have been rocked by criticism from stars including Will Smith, his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, and director Spike Lee over a perceived lack of diversity in the nominations list.

The ceremony is due to take place in Los Angeles on 28 February (16).