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3 April 2000

Q: Would Peter Jackson consider doing The Hobbit as a "prequel" to The Lord of the Rings? Since the characters of Bilbo and Gandalf both appear in that novel, would you and Ian Holm be willing to return to your roles?

A: I haven't heard of a plan to film The Hobbit or any of the other works that relate to Tolkien's Middle-earth novels. Ian Holm may by now be too old for the younger Bilbo in the earlier book.  Ask me again about playing Gandalf when this year is up!

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Ian Holm (Bilbo), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), and Robert Shaye (New Line Cinema)

From: Luke Hooft

Q: I'm sure you would be, but are the other actors in the production using the proper accents? By that I mean English accents, and perhaps some kind of European accents for other human nations of Middle-earth, like Rohan?

A: For the two Elvish languages and for the Black Speech of Mordor, Andrew Jack (Dialect Coach) is following carefully Tolkien's own instructions in his appendices to the novels. Assistance is also coming from two experts in America who can actually converse in Tolkien's invented languages. As for the characters' accents, everything follows Tolkien and a Celtic timeless feel prevails rather than a transatlantic modern one!

Q: Very excited here in Texas to see the new photo of the hobbit actors.

A: A Gandalf photograph will appear in Vanity Fair later in the year.

Q: If you happen to read the letters of Tolkien you will see how he felt about earlier efforts to make a film from Lord of the Rings.

A: But you should hear Tolkien's readings and you will hear how much he enjoyed performing them. I can't think he would mind us professionals having a go.

From: Sergio

Q: Gandalf is, at heart, a very funny character - and Peter Jackson has a sharp sense of humor. How do you think, Sir, that the comic elements are being handled in the script?

A: In the opening of the first film , Gandalf feels off-duty in Hobbiton and away from his responsibilities as an Istar; humour colours each of his scenes. Letting off fireworks at the long-expected party, bumping his head on the low ceilings in Bag End, blowing fantastical smoke rings - I have enjoyed etching in the light-hearted side of Gandalf's persona. Once the Fellowship sets off, he manages a few laughs too.

Peter Jackson is alert to all the comic possibilities.

Q: This may seem inconsequential, but I have been very curious about the appearance of Gandalf's nose. Will his nose be yours, or has it been altered with makeup or a prosthesis?

A: It is Gandalf's nose and Gandalf's beard and hair. He does not wear a wig or any prosthetics. So he doesn't have to sit through 3 hours of make-up before arriving on set.

Q: Did Nicol Williamson's reading of the Hobbit (his interpretation of Gandalf) give you ideas or inspiration as to your role as the Wizard.

A: No I haven't heard his version.

Q: The three movies will be filmed at the same time, but would you have preferred to do the other two movies after the first one gets out, to see the reaction of the public?

A: I am sure this question puzzled the financiers of Lord of the Rings, as the success of part two may well depend on part one's reception: and part three well who can predict?

As it is, a bold decision was made to assume that the trilogy will be gripping enough to retain its audience over a couple of years. It is of course commonsensical to film all three at one go gathering together the cast for separate shoots would be impractical.

It will eventually be possible to see all the films in one marathon sitting I look forward to that.

From: Bob Paul

Q: I am wondering what your view is on the need to have some type of love interest in Hollywood films even where it is not warranted. Ok so Arwen ends up marrying Aragorn but the book did without their relationship having to be detailed or portrayed and I am sure the film can cope without it as well. What are your views on this?

A: I take your point but consider the difference between telling a story on the page and on the screen. The reader expects to use his imagination and fills in the dots that link episodes of action. The cinemagoer is more literal minded and can't always accept what he hasn't seen.

The love interest in the film will not overweigh or distort Tolkien's intentions, I'm sure.

Q: What was your first conference with Peter Jackson like?

A: Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh visited my home in London a year ago and told me the story of their involvement with Tolkien in detail. They showed me many of the designs and illustrations for costumes.

I was impressed not just by their self-evident artistry and enthusiasm for the project but also by their determination to protect the source material from commercial encroachments.

I have not been disappointed since.

Q: Aside from the drama of the role, Gandalf can also be a physically demanding one, horse riding, sword fights, battle scenes etc. I was wondering which of the action scenes you're looking forward to doing?

A: I like riding and first learnt for a film about the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. Mick Jagger was eventually cast in my role.

I was on horseback as D. H. Lawrence in Priest of Love and as Roger the Bandit in Alfred the Great. As Lawrence of Arabia in Ross, I got to ride a camel.

Gandalf has already driven his pony and trap into Hobbiton. I haven't yet met Shadowfax or the eagle Gwaihir but those will be thrilling encounters no doubt.

Click to enlarge
"Gandalf's Shadow"
Photo by Ian McKellen

Additional E-Posts about LOTR may be found in

The Lord of the Rings

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