Why Christopher Plummer Turned Down The Role Of Gandalf In Lord Of The Rings

As iconic as Christopher Plummer's career has been, there are some roles that an actor just can't bring themselves to accept. In the case of Plummer's career, he found himself turning down a role that even Sean Connery himself would pass, eventually allowing the part to go to Sir Ian McKellen. That role is none other than Gandalf The Grey in Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings series.

While visiting Conan this week, it was mentioned that Plummer was actually on the list of actors offered the role of J.R.R. Tolkien's powerful wizard character. Yet despite being a fan of the franchise he grew up with and the extended stay in the beautiful New Zealand countryside, the famed actor felt that the commitment just wasn't for him. Or to put it more bluntly, his exact remark was, "I thought there are other countries I'd like to visit before I croak."

Now that's not to say that Christopher Plummer wouldn't have enjoyed a role in the Lord Of The Rings franchise. In fact, if you watch the interview a little further, there is most definitely a tinge of regret that fills the actor's voice, albeit in a comedic manner. However, thinking about the prospect in front of him, and how much of a fan he was, a remake of the Lord Of The Rings movies with a then unknown director must have sounded like something that three or four years in New Zealand might not have been worth. Judge for yourself as you watch the entire clip from the Conan interview below.

Actors of advancing age are clearly going to pick and choose their roles more carefully, and passing over the Tolkien trilogy was a calculated risk for Christopher Plummer's career. While it certainly didn't sink his career, one could only imagine what might have been, should he have accepted the position. At least his excuse for passing on Lord Of The Rings was better than Sean Connery's methodology; which saw him rejecting the film in favor for The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Still, it's good to know that Christopher Plummer saw himself on the path to winning an eventual Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, even if he passed up what could have been the role of a lifetime. Call it luck, or call it a very selective filmography, but Plummer's rejection of The Lord Of the Rings gave us an Ian McKellen performance that even he recognized as a warm and more suited for the role. Still, that didn't leave Plummer without a humorous exclamation of jealousy, as the eventual success of The Lord Of The Rings is probably the reason that Christopher Plummer claims that he, "hates that son of a bitch," Ian McKellen.

You can now see Christopher Plummer alongside Al Pacino in Danny Collins, which is currently in limited release.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.