Ian McKellen Explores The Lighter Side Of Gandalf On The Set Of The Hobbit

By Eric Eisenberg 2012-10-26 16:06:50discussion comments
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Are we going to see more of a relationship between Gandalf and Thorin in the movie than we see in the book?

I couldn't tell you that, because once there is a script, although it is very helpful to relate back to the book, I don't start comparing the two. And I couldn't make that judgment, really, I don't think. But it's certainly a constant of the story, and each time he and Thorin talk, it's a development of that relationship. But he's got an ongoing one with Bilbo, of course, but that too has its ups and downs. But perhaps that's a little more light-hearted, yeah. Well, Gandalf loves Hobbits. Peter did say to me very early on, there was a rambunctious scene in Bag End, and all the dwarves were eating and drinking too much. He thought it would be fun if Gandalf were a bit tipsy. And I was appalled at that and said, "No, Gandalf doesn't get drunk." But now, after a year of it, I see what Peter was after. I think he wants a lightness, and he's cast some really expert comedians, whose eye will be looking out for what's amusing. And I think Gandalf is a little bit a part of that, but I think the pressure's taken off me once you've got Billy Connolly and Barry Humphries and Stephen Fry, and indeed Martin Freeman, who's an expert comic actor. Let them get on with it I think, really.

Do you know off the top of your head if there are any scenes that Gandalf was in in the books that's not in the movie? That they've taken him out of a scene?

Yes, there are scenes which are not in the book, but that doesn't say they're not in Tolkien somewhere, or in the back of Tolkien's mind. And Philippa [Boyens], who I talked most to about the script, often refers to details in the book that I had overlooked, or implications that she's developed. But you've only got to look at the width of The Lord of The Rings. Things had to be cut to get it down to the three films. The Hobbit is that-- things have got to be expanded. You could, I suppose, have made just one film of the story of The Hobbit. I had an idea way back, that-- I still think it would have been a good idea to not make a film of The Hobbit, but to make a TV series of The Hobbit, and do every episode. Do everything that's in the book in full detail, and just tell the story. It might take thirteen-hour episodes, I don't know. I thought that would have been another way of doing it. But I'm not a producer and I'm not a script writer.

One of the great things about Gandalf's character is there are moments where he's almost winking and he's very friendly, but then he can get very cross very quickly. And obviously, there's plot points where you have to hit those beats. But in between, you can sort of fall between. Is that something that comes to you naturally, or do you map that out in your performance?

I don't really know, but I suspect the base that I'm working from is not particularly one of inquiry, but of memory of what I did last time. It is the same Gandalf. However, there were three films, and in two of them, I was Gandalf the White. And I don't make much connection between White and Grey, and I've never really liked the White. I never said I didn't like playing him, but I didn't warm to him. He's a man with a mission, and he's a commander, and he's a man working right at the end of his tether. Gandalf the Grey, I think Peter agrees, is a much more congenial person, and humane, and full of all sorts of life. And particularly when he's with the Hobbits. There's not a lot of Hobbits in this story, there's one, really. So whenever I'm with him, I think that brings out the side of Gandalf that you're talking about. I don't think he warms to the dwarves as much.
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