Ian McKellen E-Posts

16 June 2000

Q: How much influence would you say George Lucas had in persuading studios to do stories in trilogy format?

A: All film-makers admire the "Star Wars" trilogy and it certainly set a sort of precedent. But as you can tell, it was a storytelling imperative which made Peter Jackson stick out for at least two films. He was very happy when Bob Shaye of New Line offered money enough for three. They are dealing with a classic whose following is worldwide - 6.6 million downloaded the online snippet of "Lord of the Rings" in its first week. That would be some opening weekend if they all bought a ticket!

Q: My introduction to Tolkien's world was through an animated TV show based on "The Hobbit." What was yours? 

A: I read "The Hobbit" at university. 

Q: Why wasn't "The Hobbit" considered as a first movie?

A: "The Lord of the Rings" can be read independently of "The Hobbit" and is different in tone and intention perhaps. Our screenplay refers to Bilbo's adventures much as Tolkien does in the trilogy.


Q: How is the production going to portray the invisible wearers of the ring. Is the wearer going to be completely visible to the audience and just 'ignored' by the others on screen, or are they going to be misted etc. to create the effect of being invisible?

A: As far as I can judge, once the One Ring is worn, invisibility is complete. Even the ring itself will disappear as well as its wearer.


Q: I'm a film student in Toronto - seeking adventure and experience. Rumor has it that the New Zealand film crews are SOOO desperate for crew that they're hiring on the spot.

A: Rumour is incorrect re non-Kiwi employees. Some of us (in all departments) are foreign but most on the film are locals. I don't recommend a journey down under just on spec.

Fan Sites 

Q: Do you and Peter Jackson ever visit Tolkien sites on the Internet?

A: I don't know where Peter gets the time but he seems to be au fait with the Tolkien sites and often refers to them in detail. I make occasional anonymous visits and am sometimes tempted to correct the wilder speculations in the correspondence columns. Having this outlet, I keep quiet. And so, it seems, does Peter.


Q: I have read the trilogy very carefully, and I found no references whatsoever to elves having pointy ears. And yet, I just read that the actors who will play elves in the movies will have to wear prosthetic ears.

A: I can confirm that the elves as well as the hobbits have prosthetic ears. What justification there is in Tolkien, I don't know. Certainly, as he describes, the elves are beautiful and eternally youthful and their delicate ears perhaps help with that image.


Q: In a film such as "The Lord of the Rings" which involves travel to foreign parts, work outdoors, exposure to the elements, long or irregular hours, and contact with lots of different people, it might be very easy to pick up a bug. Do leading actors hire people to help keep them well?

A: Well, this one doesn't, although there is a nurse on set for minor injuries and infections. The most debilitating part of filming is night shoots when the body adopts that dreadful jet-lag feel after a long flight. My guard against illness is to sleep whenever I can and to eat good food. Films, like armies, march on their stomachs, and our meals are full of salads, fruit and healthy raw stuff as well as delicious sugary desserts.


Q: Will you be using Gandalf's sword "Glamdring" in combat and what sort of training have you undergone? Have you ever worked with notable fight-choreographer William Hobbes?

A: I worked with Bill Hobbes years back when I played Hamlet onstage - dagger and rapier. I have never had any general fight training, so each time I have to wield a weapon I start from scratch. In "Lord of the Rings" I have trained a little with Gandalf's staff and Glamdring, which he carries once the Fellowship is en route for Mordor.

Fighting is easier onscreen than onstage. The camera rarely sees the full figure, whose silhouette is crucial to convince a theatre audience. Hence the use of doubles who save the actors' time and bloodied knuckles. You can be pretty sure that when you can't see the characters' faces during a film fight, that doubles are being used. That leaves the actor with his close-ups, wielding an off camera weapon , sometime minus its blade to avoid slicing the operator!


Q: What is the proper pronunciation of Saruman? Is it SEHrooman? sahROOman? What are you using in the film?

A: We call him SAH - ru- mahn. I ran this answer past our pronunciation adviser Andrew Jack who adds: "It depends on who is saying it!"


Q: In LOTR, Gandalf recites his experiences with Gollum in the Marshes, when he is putting together the history of the ring. Is this scene included in the movie?

A: Gollum's vital connection with the One Ring is explained in the first movie. Gandalf and he do not appear together onscreen, although this may change when we come to film the sequence in the Mines of Moria, where Gollum spies on the Fellowship.


Q: I wonder if Peter Jackson has already the music in mind that will be used for the movie.

A: To date the composer is not yet chosen although many of the film industry's most illustrious names have made enquiries. It sounds as if Peter Jackson will be able to have his pick of the best. The music will need to encompass a wide range of expression and emotion. Its eventual composer will need more versatility than is usual.

Where Are We?

Q: I think that it will be hard to handle in the film the number of places, towns, cities, mountain ranges and such like. I find it hard to get my head around it without the aid of a map. How is Peter Jackson planning to stop viewers getting confused, especially the younger ones among us?

A: Like you, I need to refer to the maps when reading the novels. The advantage of the film is that you will actually see the changing landscapes of the Fellowship's journeyings.


Q: What are they going to do about all the songs in the books?

A: I am not certain but I think the songs will not feature as regularly in the film as they do in the novels.


Q: There has been a very nasty rumor that the character of Arwen (Liv Tyler) will accompany the other characters on the quest. Is this true, somewhat true or not true at all? A "spy" had noticed filming at the Door of Moria about to begin. He/she had walked away by the time filming actually began, but did overhear a woman's voice screaming. This was assumed to be Arwen (Liv Tyler).

A: The "spy" is incompetent if he/she ever existed. There were no women at the doors of Moria and no screaming.

And to put an end to it - Arwen does NOT accompany the Fellowship in the movie.


Q: Is Radagast the Brown to appear in the movie?

A: No he is not.

Who Else? 

Q:: If someone else had gotten the part, which actor would you prefer as Gandalf?

A: Paul Scofield who won the Oscar for "A Man for All Seasons" and was so wonderfully unworldly as Mel Gibson's dead father in Zeffirelli's film of "Hamlet".

From: Marcus bad_seed_uk@yahoo.co.uk

Q: Do you and Peter Jackson ever have disagreements over how the part of Gandalf should be played?

A: Not so far - on the contrary; guided, it's true, by his overall knowledge of the project, we support each other.

Click to Enlarge
Ian McKellen, New Zealand, May 2000
Photo by Keith Stern

Additional E-Posts about LOTR may be found in

The Lord of the Rings

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