Actor Ian McKellen on the ‘Today’ show this morning (

While promoters of “The Da Vinci Code” have tried to downplay the film’s challenge to Christianity, actor Ian McKellen took a shot at the Bible in an interview with the “Today” show, saying Scripture should carry a disclaimer that it is “fiction.”

McKellen, who played Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings” triology, was responding to a question from host Matt Lauer about the requests by some Christian groups to insert a “fiction” disclaimer at the beginning of the controversial film, which suggests Jesus and Mary Magdalene were man and wife and that the divinity of Jesus was an invention of fourth-century church leaders.

The clip can be seen here, courtesy of the weblog Newsbusters.

McKellen, who announced in 1988 he is homosexual, said in a 2004 interview with the London Telegraph he rips out the book of Leviticus, which condemns homosexuality, from the Gideon Bible in every hotel room in which he stays.

Lauer, on location with director Ron Howard and leading cast members at the Cannes Film Festival in France where the film officially debuts tonight, asked:

“There have been calls from some religious groups, they wanted a disclaimer at the beginning of this movie saying it is fiction because one of the themes in the book really knocks Christianity right on its ear, if Christ survived the crucifixion, he did not die for our sins and therefore was not resurrected. What I’m saying is, people wanted this to say ‘fiction, fiction, fiction’. How would you all have felt if there was a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie? Would it have been okay with you?”

McKellen replied:

“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. And I have faith in this movie. Not that it’s true, not that it’s factual, but that it’s a jolly good story. And I think audiences are clever enough and bright enough to separate out fact and fiction, and discuss the thing after they’ve seen it.”

In another interview, commenting on calls by the Catholic Church to boycott the film, McKellen told that as an atheist and homosexual, he’s boycotting the Catholic Church.

The Vatican “is always saying very rude and unnecessary things about gay people, so I tend to keep out of their way and not listen to what they say,” he said.

McKellen also made comments today picked up by Reuters.

“I’m very happy to believe that Jesus was married,” he said. “I know the Catholic Church has problems with gay people and I thought this would be absolute proof that Jesus was not gay.”

“Da Vinci” director Howard told the Hollywood Reporter in an interview published today he means no offense to Christians, declaring “people’s faith is nothing to take lightly, I have a great deal of respect for people of faith, all faiths.”

At the same time,” he said, referring to his film, “it is a work of fiction. It’s not meant to offend, it’s not theology. If anyone thinks the story is going to be upsetting, they shouldn’t see it.”

A survey of British readers of the book on which the film is based, however, shows it causes people to believe its claims over those of the Bible.

Readers of the Dan Brown novel are twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children and four times as likely to think the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is a murderous sect, Reuters reported.

Documentaries have been produced to debunk claims made in the book, including “Breaking the Da Vinci Code.”

Movie critics who got a sneak preview of the film last night were not impressed, with several viewers responding with derogatory whistles instead of applause, Agence France-Presse reported.

Some in the audience of about 2,000 burst out in laughter at a key moment.

Peter Brunette, critic for the Boston Globe, said: “I didn’t like it very much. I thought it was almost as bad as the book. Tom Hanks was a zombie, thank goodness for Ian McKellen. It was overplayed, there was too much music and it was much too grandiose.”

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