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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Did you look again at The Fellowship, in particular to look at how you played the Grey, and to refresh your memory?

Oh, I'm not that sort of professional. No, I thought of doing that. It is so painful watching yourself act, particularly because you can't do anything about it, it's all done and dusted. But I had two young friends aged six-- Or was she five? Just on the cusp. And her sister, ten. And they were visiting me, and their parents allowed them for the first time to look at Lord of The Rings, which they thought, perhaps, was a bit too grown up in some senses. So over their shoulders, I watched whilst they were looking at the films for the first time. They watched them all three times in two days. And I saw first-hand, the effect these films have on kids. I know children-- I remember myself, I liked to hear the same story over and over again, but three screening of The Lord of The Rings in two days? But over their shoulders, I thought, "Ooh, I'm not-- I wonder if I am repeating it." I think I'm a bit gruffer than I used to be, and I'm certainly older. Although of course Gandalf ought to be a little bit younger, 'cause these events are happening sixty years before. But when you're sixty-seven thousand years old, I guess it doesn't make much difference. I'm comforting myself. And I obviously look very much the same, because my own features are framed by a wig and a familiar hat, and a mustache and beard, so there's not a lot of me there. In fact, my face has shrunk in the meantime, but it won't be particularly noticeable because it's covered up with hair. So I hope I'm not alarmed if I ever do sit through the five movies.

It seems like there will be a very different dynamic or energy between Gandalf and this particular group that he's with, because in Fellowship they're all basically kids that he's going on this adventure with. In this case, they're all really adults. So can you talk a little bit about finding that group dynamic, that energy there?

Well, the relationships that Gandalf has that develop, are with Bilbo and with Thorin. He talks to the other dwarves, but not with the same sort of depth. So I tend to see them as a group, rather than as-- I know who they are as individuals, but I don't have long-developing relationships with individual dwarves apart from Thorin. And that's as it is in the book. I think the script has made Gandalf a bit less bossy than he is in the novel. But he supports them on their quest, which they call it, and their desire to reclaim their land and property, with a different sort of enthusiasm than he would send the Fellowship off to retrieve the Ring. Which is why it's helpful to me that we should know what's going on elsewhere in Middle Earth, which dwarves tramping around the place, attracting the attention of old enemies and new, threatens to unbalance the ever-present sleeping dragon, the wisdom of waking him, now he's fully grown. If they're going to go off and do that, Gandalf thinks, "I better be there." And he's right.

Were able to work with Christopher Lee in London?

No. I wasn't. Because the time they were shooting him in London, I was doing my play outside London. On the actual days they were shooting, I couldn't-- I would love to have gone and seen Ian Holm at the same time. However, I've seen that scene cut together, in which Gandalf and Saruman appear. It's where they're in the same room, and it's peculiar. I've seen a lot of the film now, a lot of Part One, and it's looking magnificent. But again, I haven't seen it at 48 frames, and I look forward to that.
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