Gandalf Speaks: Ian McKellen On Returning To Middle Earth And Why It's Taken Him So Long

By Josh Tyler 2011-01-10 23:06:14discussion comments
Gandalf Speaks: Ian McKellen On Returning To Middle Earth And Why It's Taken Him So Long image
With the announcement today that Sir Ian McKellen had at last agreed to return as Gandalf for Peter Jackson’s upcoming Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit, the internet collectively threw its hat in the air and rejoiced. What’s amazing though is that, apparently, McKellen didn’t seem to know whether we’d care.

Shortly after the official announcement of his casting in the film, Sir Ian posted about his involvement in the film on his official site. There he explains in part why he’s the last cast member on board, and talks about all the steps it’s taken to get him this far. Apparently he just wasn’t sure he still wanted to do it. Not because he doesn’t love the character, but because he’s 71 and though spry, worried that he might be more comfortable at home working in the theater. He explains:
As my agent continued to negotiate with Warner Brothers, I kept wondering was Gandalf what I most wanted to do, more than a new play for instance or indeed a new part? Sequels aren’t necessarily as rewarding to act in as their originals.

More than that though, he seems unaware of just how utterly iconic and irreplaceable his Oscar nominated work as Gandalf was. He says:
Could I let Gandalf go? Would anyone else care if I did? Elsewhere, does anyone care that Michael Gambon was not the first to play Dumbledore?

Though he does have a website, McKellen is 71 and maybe it’s safe to assume he doesn’t use the internet a ton. Maybe he simply hasn’t read all the millions of words written about how much having him as Gandalf means not just to the production, but to everyone who plans to see the two Hobbit movies once they’re released. By comparing himself to Richard Harris’s work as Dumbledore he does himself a disservice. His take on Gandalf was infinitely more significant. There’s a reason Harris wasn’t nominated for an Oscar while McKellen as Gandalf, was. All wizards are not created equal.

Whether or not he realizes just how important this role is to all of us, it does seem like it’s important to him, and ultimately he signed up. It may have even helped that they’ll be taking a break over the summer to accommodate the schedule of Martin Freeman, who has other commitments during those months. Says Sir Ian:
The deciding negotiation was not about money but about dates. Gandalf is needed on set over the next 18 months but with sizeable breaks when I can work on other projects. My worry that I could not easily escape from Middle Earth was lifted. I am happy to say I start filming in Wellington on February 21 2011.

We’re glad to have you back sir, The Hobbit wouldn’t be worth seeing without you.
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