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24 March 2000

Q: What's your Gandalf costume like?

A: Heavy.

From Tony E.V.

Q: Hi Mr. McKellen, I was wondering about The Lord of the Rings movie that you are doing, I remember a few years ago a cartoon came on TV, and it was called The Lord of the Rings too, its a great cartoon, and I was wondering, is that where they got the ideal from to make the movie, or is it two completely different things?

A: As far as I know - and he told me so himself - the director Peter Jackson had the idea of filming The Lord of the Rings during a domestic encounter with his partner Fran Walsh, who co-wrote the screenplay. They had no expectations of the rights being available: and they weren't. They were owned by Saul Zaentz and with him an accommodation was made. Miramax was approached to finance the project and suggested a one-film version. This eventually gave way to the more ambitious commitment of New Line. The inspiration of the film is definitely Tolkien's novels and mythologising and most definitely not the television cartoon.

Q: I think that you will make a fantastic Gandalf. My original favourite to play the role was Max Von Sydow, who to me, has the immediate traits of the character. But when I heard of your casting, I opened my mind to see that my vision is not everybody's. I want to wish you all the best, and eagerly anticipate the movie.

A: Yes, Max von Sydow would have been a good Gandalf - Sean Connery, Michael Gambon, Nigel Hawthorne, Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Christopher Lee - they would each have done it well. Which reminds me how lucky I am.

Q: Sir, Gandalf does some rather extensive riding in the later two books, (bareback of all things...) How will this be handled in the film?

A: I have already met the horse playing Shadowfax and expect to mount him on occasion. But as usual on film when there are any equine manoeuvres that would be dangerous for an inexpert horseman like me, a stunt rider will double as Gandalf, wearing the character's clothes and makeup but with his face averted from the camera. I am happy with this arrangement, which also applies to unusual physical action or violence. My friend Roy Kinnear died having fallen from his horse on slippery terrain whilst filming The Four Musketeers.

Q: Because of the early attempts to compare Lord of the Rings with Star Wars and given the fact that in many ways the old Obi-Wan is a take-off of Gandalf, are you intending on playing Gandalf in a manner to differentiate your performance from Sir Alec Guinness?

A: As Gandalf has a much wider range of character than the o.o.one, I think I'll be safe from any confusion.

Q: Gandalf's journey is from shadowy manipulator to purposeful actor. This change is most evident when The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are viewed as a whole. Since the films mostly encompass Gandalf's "man of action" persona, will there be a sense of this change in Gandalf's self-perception and in his sense of purpose?

A: The events of The Hobbit are properly referred to in the screenplay but Gandalf is seen only within the Lord of the Rings story. The change you refer to is most marked when Gandalf the Grey is superceded by Gandalf the White. In the first film, there is plenty of scope in the early scenes in Hobbiton to portray the wandering wizard who dominates The Hobbit.

From: Gustavo Alemán Pérez

Q: As a Spanish Tolkien fan I want to express my complete confidence in your work in bringing to life the Middle Earth. Many fans will be disappointed but, in the end, I don't expect the "perfect" LOTR movie. I only expect an awesome movie, full of imagination and creativity. All the signs seem to grant this hope. I am sure you will play an outstanding Gandalf. Keep that Way! Congratulations and good luck! And now a question. Is the movie being filmed in a chronological order? Do you find difficult to portray the big metamorphosis Gandalf suffer thru the story?

A: Basically the movies proceed as in the books although sometimes the order of events is changed to keep up the tension or to clarify the story.

From: Paul Barrett

Q: Would you consider reprising your role of Gandalf for a possible film version of The Hobbit?

A: It would all depend on the screenplay, director etc. after a year's filming Lord of the Rings, I may never want to return to Middle Earth. Anyway the best parts should be shared around.

From: Spencer Bilodeau

Q: Would you be averse to suggesting to Peter Jackson that he should make a cameo as a Dwarf...If John Rhys-Davies can be made to look like one, then Mr Jackson most certainly wouldn't be far off the mark! Maybe a brief appearance as one of the Dwarves in the Prancing Pony..

A: There is a rumour that Peter Jackson will appear in the movie but I haven't seen any evidence of it in the dailies. As his Forgotten Silver proves, he is a very capable actor. I was appalled how convincingly he lied in that documentary. Sobering to think that I have been lying all my professional life.

Q: Gandalf looked like an old man, but he most certainly was stronger/fitter/... than  any normal human being, including for example Aragorn and Boromir. But now I have read that in the movies, I will see a Gandalf complaining about health problems, his frail body. Is that true ?

A: Simply that there is Gandalf the Grey who complains a bit about his age cage and the invigorated Gandalf the White who triumphs. I shouldn't be giving away this part of the plot but I suspect you know more about it than I do.

From: jeffrey miller

Q: What are your thoughts (and fears) concerning the confrontation with the Balrog?

A: Mainly technical as the Balrog will be digitally realised to fit in with my solo movements on film.

Additional E-Posts about LOTR may be found in

The Lord of the Rings

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