Ian McKellen E-Posts

5 June 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?"

Q: Kia ora Sir Ian. Glad you enjoyed our country [New Zealand], come back soon. As an actor what do you think was Gandalf's primary reason for embarking on this quest to meet Sauron's challenge?

A: Gandalf like the other Istari is at the behest of the high powers bidden to care for Middle-earth. When he returns from his fight with the Balrog he reports: "I was sent back — for a brief time until my task is done."

From: Finn J Pette

Q: You have done some amazing work, although as yet haven't exactly become a Hollywood "icon". With the release of LOTR this may well change. Are you a little apprehensive about this or do you look forward to it? I ask because when I grew up Alec Guinness was a hero to me in his Obi-Wan Kenobi role and I was shattered as a youth when I found out he hated the role.

A: Sir Alec didn't like the sparse dialogue in Star Wars. By contrast Gandalf gets some of Tolkien's best writing. As for the iconic status of the role, I can always escape into my customary anonymity by not wearing a pointy hat in public.

Q: From the snowy slopes and vistas of the original, Nordic middle earth and the island of the fertility god, I bring forth these twine questions. A) What reactions to the movies do you get from the part of the movie industry that is not actually involved in the making of LotR?  B) How often did you actually act against the hobbit actors? Best regards from Sweden.

A. Who knows what they think and I don't see why I should care too much. Although I haven't felt it over recent months, I guess film-making is like any other industry, competitive and insular. One's own work always seems more absorbing and important than other people's. But I am excited about the arrival of the Harry Potter movie and Scorcese's next for example and, despite their opening close to The Fellowship of the Ring, I wish them well and can't wait to see them. Many of Gandalf's scenes (Grey in The Fellowship of the Ring and White in the other two movies) are with one or other of the hobbits.

From: Matthew du Plessis

Q: When I was 10, I discovered Tolkien's works while on a trip through the Eastern Cape in South Africa, where I live. Imagine how delighted I was to discover that Tolkien was born in SA and based Hobbiton on a place called Hogsback (in South Africa). Did Peter Jackson go there see what it looked like? Or even consider filming there?

A. Interesting point. If so, he never mentioned it to me when he knew I was going to Cape Town straight after principal photography. I think others have claimed the visual source of Hobbiton is closer to the city of Oxford in rural England where Tolkien lived and worked whilst writing Lord of the Rings. The film's Shire is neither the Eastern Cape nor Oxfordshire but in the north island of New Zealand near Hamilton.

From: Josh Tucker

Q: In reading reports of the 26 minutes of amazing lord of the rings footage screened at Cannes and about the new trailer released with Pearl Harbor, I have heard that the Gandalf portrayed there is more a desperate haggard character than the kind and fatherly wizard many of us know from the books.

A: Gandalf the Grey is a wanderer and survives a number of long journeys by foot and horseback — he is rarely sitting out of harm's way in his pony-trap. So of course he gets dusty and dirty, without benefit of wayside washrooms. Haggard perhaps to look at but that doesn't stop his being gentle or paternal when appropriate.

Q: I'm amazed at how I sometimes find myself repeatedly watching short passages in a film, and the immense pleasure I get from these brief moments. Perhaps this is an unanswerable question, but do you have any such favorite scenes in the LOTR, involving yourself or others?

Q: A little early to try and answer although I really enjoy the first meeting of Bilbo and Gandalf at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring their smiles and their hug.

From: Mike

Q: Best of luck to you in future efforts, and I hope to see you in Middle-earth again for the as of yet unconfirmed Hobbit movie.

A: So unconfirmed in fact that this is the first I have heard of it!

From: Matt Swarts

Q: Some of the scenes in Mordor are very gruesome. I wanted to know if the movie will keep true to the story and show things like dead orc bodys and cut-off heads with blood all around them on the floor? I know that they want this to be a film that children can see.

A: Yes censorship is always concerned with blood and violence and sex. There is not much sex in Lord of the Rings and as orc blood is black rather than gruesome red perhaps children will not be prevented from seeing the films. The intention in USA is for PG13 licence.

From: David Banaszak

Q: Just before a film is released the principal actors make rounds on the talk show circuit. Are you planning to do this?

A: I intend to join any junkettings that New Line organise closer to the release date — until then you will have to make do with The Grey Book and these E-Posts.

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.


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