Ian McKellen E-Posts

12 April 2001

"Mercy!" cried Gandalf: "if the giving of information is to be the cure of your inquisitiveness, I shall spend all the rest of my days in answering you. What do you want to know?"

From: Michael Norris

Q: It has always seemed to me that the progression in Lord of the Rings equates to a geographical progression away from pastoral England (the Shire). If you look at the landscapes in the great Tolkien artists, they always seem quite "pastoral" and English, but become progressively less so as the Fellowship moves towards Mordor. In that respect, it must be difficult to overcome the essential non-Englishness of the New Zealand bush, which has such a unique character (esp. with its tree ferns). What steps, if any, are being taken to give the New Zealand bush a more "England-like" appearance?

A: I agree that Hobbiton and the Shire fit the middle-English countryside around Oxford, where Tolkien lived and wrote. Yet Middle-earth is its own place, less cultivated than England. The rolling green hills in New Zealand's North Island are reminiscent of Oxfordshire yet have their own personality which doubles well for the Shire. Elsewhere the varied landscapes match the demands of the story. As for the bush, there is a magical, long-lost wildness that the native vegetation enhances. I think, in one of the indoor sets, I did spy an imported English oak amongst the ferns. Equally, the film's Treebeard would look at home in the woodland with which Tolkien was familiar.

From: Todd Bonny

Q: In the novels, Frodo begins the story at age 33, and he is 50 when the plot really kicks into action; yet Elijah Wood is not yet 20. Has Frodo's age been kept the same in the screenplay, or has he been made younger? Also, someone said that the script version had only a few months pass between the birthday party and Gandalf's return to the Shire, while in the novel these two events are separated by 17 years.

A. Frodo's age is not mentioned in the screenplay but remember that Hobbits age slower than humans. Bilbo celebrates his eleventy-first birthday yet is only beginning to feel his years. It is clear from their behaviour that Frodo and friends are young when they are introduced in the story.

The events of the film are not measured with any calendar precision.

From: Phil

Q: I suspect Peter Jackson and the scriptwriters must have had some debate as to whether to leave the endings of the three films as they are in the book or to move them forwards or backwards in order to give a more satisfactory ending rather than a cliff-hanger bearing in mind it is going to be 12 months before people see the next episode. Is this matter still under debate?

A: According to the screenplay, the film endings are much as they are in the novel's books. I am sure that each film is intended to be entertaining as a unit but the story is of course only complete at the end of the third. One distant day, it will be possible to see the three films one after the other either at home or in the cinema; an experience that will be less tiring than reading the whole novel at one sitting!

From: chuck rowe

Q: Are scenes being filmed not for inclusion in the theater release of LOTR but intended for the director's cut of the boxed set of LOTR? Will Bombadil be included in the boxed set?

A: Bombadil is not included in the screenplay. The final cut may well have to omit footage which can then reappear in the DVD.

Q: Can you verify if Saruman dies from a fall from Orthanc and is consequently left out of the rest of the film? Speaking for myself (though I am sure that hundreds of other Tolkien fans have the same opinion) I consider this an unacceptable departure from the books as written. I was willing to forego Bombadil, was willing to see the expansion of the Arwen character into something out of bad 1980's movie, but this is awful!!

A: Of course I should like to dodge your ire but it really ought to be directed at the screenplay writers or the actors involved. I can reassure you that Arwen's character in the film does not diverge from the book. As for Saruman's death, I can't anticipate where exactly this will happen within the finished third film and am sorry that you will have to wait more than two years to find out.

From: William R Soland

Q: I have recently begun studying acting at the University level and, of course, I quickly encountered Stanislavsky. In fact, his method of acting dominates the University of Arizona's curriculum. Do you look inside your own character in order to find the awesome power that you must convey as Gandalf the White?

A: I have not studied acting academically and am no expert on Stanislavsky's method or anybody else's. I have, though, visited his Moscow apartment where there are mementoes of his career on display.

Q: Gandalf, being so powerful, is tempted by the power of the Ring more than the average being. Did the constant temptation of the Ring in the back of your character's mind change your approach to the dialogue at all?

A: There are a number of moments when Gandalf's attraction to the Ring is made explicit and they were helpful in supporting his determination to end its power.

From: Marius Kiely

Q: Do you feel that there is a danger of all the computer wizardry (forgive the pun!) 'sci-fi-ising' the imagery? Or is this inevitable in visually portraying the story?

A: The reader of Lord of the Rings has to use his/her imagination. The cleverness of the films' technology is in convincing the audience that what they see on screen really was happening when the camera rolled.

From: John Lynn Beck

Q: Gandalf aside, is there any one character or creature from Tolkien's vast imagination that would strike you as being the most interesting, one that you fancy more than others for any particularly reason?

A: Treebeard is a favourite of mine. Anyone lost in a wood (cf Blair Witch Project) can believe that trees walk and talk.

Q: I was wondering if you will use some magic and what kind?

A: We devised a few party tricks to entertain the juvenile Hobbits celebrating Bilbo's birthday in the opening scenes of the first film. They involve pulling things out of Gandalf's pointy hat. Elsewhere, of course, his magical powers are more impressive and purposeful.

From: Ross Spalding

Q: With the advent of DVD the inclusion of a commentary track has become very popular with fans (myself included) and I was wondering if you found any attraction in doing one yourself.

A: There has been no talk yet of what extras The Lord of the Rings might include in its DVD but I should be happy to contribute. I hope, sometime, there might be a re-release of the Richard III DVD including some of the commentary currently to be found in the published screenplay, available on this site.

Additional E-Posts about LOTR may be found in

The Lord of the Rings

Sorry, we're no longer taking questions for Ian McKellen's E-Post Blog.


Acting Shakespeare Ian McKellen DVD