From: Matt Cowger
Q: I've just read that theft of props, unauthorised picture-taking and theft of footage are becoming problematic on the set of LOTR. Is this problem as bad as reported?
A: I haven't been inconvenienced by the problem, other than having to remember to hand back all LOTR related papers. This secrecy may be a response to outsiders' inquisitiveness but it certainly encourages more of it. Purloined props and clandestine photographs might have fetched a nice price from a collector or publisher and temptation was too great for one ex-employee, although his defence in court was that his obsession for the movie had unsettled his judgment. Since then I've heard of nothing untoward and not caught sight of any intruding cameras. Even so, we are not allowed near the gates in costume and if we are driven through them to another location, we are encouraged to mask our makeup lest it be revealed next day on the Internet.
Q: Why are there so many restrictions on the press finding out what goes on in the LOTR set?
A: When we finish principal photography at the end of the year, there will still be another 12 months before the release of the first film. It would be understandable if New Line wanted to keep their options for publicity open a little longer, so that the anticipation is teased out. Yet there have been snippets of the action broadcast on the internet; a longer trailer seen at ComiCon in San Diego; the "Vanity Fair" preview of the hobbits et al. The "New York Times" has visited as well as many local newspapers. You may not realise that press allowed onto any film set is subject to restrictions and embargoes. What with the Grey Book on this site and John Forde's entertaining filming reports on eonline.com, Lord of the Rings is much freer from censorship than most.
From: Ken Webb
Q: It seems to me that the sheer complexity of filming the three films simultaneously would be overwhelming for all involved. How are morale and spirit holding up among cast and crew?
A: Each of us has a part to play and a job to do yet the common focus is Tolkien's writing and Jackson's presentation of it. There is much mutual admiration - WETA's props, the fantastic scenery, the cast are patently achieving high standards and, crossing fingers, expectations remain very high. Travelling (for free!) across the varying New Zealand landscapes would be a constant morale-boost, were one needed.
Q: As Gandalf is physically in good shape, would you play the "hard" scenes or your double?
A: You will appreciate that the camera doesn't always record the truth and that when, for instance, Gandalf falls after the Balrog it may be neither me nor my stunt double who is dragged off the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. But generally if some action is potentially dangerous, I am happy to let others take over, knowing that in the completed film, no one will be the wiser. When I realised on Last Action Hero that even so fit a gent as Arnold Schwarzenegger has a double, I lost any worries about being thought weedy. Doubles have a double advantage it means that two "Gandalf" scenes can be shot simultaneously, and so the schedule progresses.
Q: Is there anything about Gandalf's character that you really dislike?
A: Can you believe that playing Iago, Macbeth, Salieri, Dussander and Richard III, I so identified with them that I was able to ignore those faults which make others dislike them? Otherwise I mightn't have been able to inhabit them feelingly. As for Gandalf, he may well have his critics but don't expect me to be one of them, at least until filming is over. (At mealtimes, I do wish he didn't grow his wayward beard so long.)
Q: I am quite a distant viewer, cause I live in Moscow, Russia. It is not easy to reach information on the new film here. I just wanted to ask: how does it feel to be a legend, a Maia with so much power? Does this role influence your real life in any way?
A: I am glad the Grey Book can be read in Moscow. During filming, even now replying to you from my trailer, I don't like to be too distracted from Gandalf. After all I look like him, wear his clothes and must be ready whenever I'm called to go and speak his lines. Once the day's work is through, I shed the character with his clothes and make-up, although sometimes need a few stretching exercises to discard his stoop and age's stiffness.
From: Rhian Yates
Q: 1. Are you (cast and crew) prepared for failure of the LOTR should it not deliver as Tolkien's movies? 2. If LOTR becomes a huge success like Titanic, should we (the fans) expect any Oscars for the movie and its cast and crew?
A: 1. As far as I can judge by watching others at work and viewing the daily rushes, we are delivering the film as we want it made. Whether our efforts will be appreciated, who can tell? 2. The members of the Academy who vote for the Oscars don't always agree with the public's taste in movies.
From: Jared Butler
Q: It seems inevitable that films like X-Men and The Lord of the Rings will expose a large number of otherwise unfamiliar moviegoers to your work. When they are left wanting more McKellen, is there any particular work that you hope they come across?
A: One bonus of any increasing familiarity would be if moviegoers were tempted in future to see me onstage.
From: David Kerr
Q: Could you please give me some indication of what image, shape, or form Sauron the dark lord is to be portrayed.
A: Sauron appears at the end of Tolkien's story: "There rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed..." This apocalyptic vision will be transfigured in the movie into a being whose exact appearance has not yet been settled on.
Q: What color is Gandalf the Grey's hat? The "Vanity Fair" photo doesn't look very blue.
A: It is blue, blue/grey perhaps, not bright blue - but then I am a bit colour blind.
Sorry, we're no longer taking questions for Ian McKellen's E-Post Blog.