Ian McKellen E-Posts

5 September 2000

"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?"


From: Roger Sweets

Q: Many movies, and LOTR it seems to an extreme degree, are filmed out of sequence to the chronological story. I'd like to know how jarring this is for you as an actor, (especially as a stage actor), and if the sequencing seems particularly jumbled in this film.

A: Plays are often rehearsed piecemeal and scenes may only be played sequentially as the dress rehearsal approaches. So, as long as wits are about us, shooting scenes for the third film before the first is completed is not unnerving. Peter Jackson's grasp of the story and its changing moods is so sure that he is the reliable guide whom we can safely trust. Wardrobe and make-up personnel can be flustered more than the actors, for they must ensure the continuity of appearance is accurate. They are aided by Polaroid snapshots and the written notes of the script supervisor Victoria Sullivan. And video playback is invaluable.

From: John D. Mayoras

Q: How much do you feel the Internet and the newfound ability for the common everyday Joe, Tolkien fanatic, and movie critic to voice his opinion and his personal wishes regarding your livelihood, affect what you do or what the bigwigs funding the movie want you to do?

A: I take comfort from the worldwide interest in the films as it confirms that there will be a large audience awaiting their release. More obscure films, however accomplished, fail to find a distributor and therefore a cinema audience. As for others' concerns about the details of the screenplay and characterisation, I take what is useful (call it "research") and then plod on with my own interpretation, guided of course by the director and the other participants in front of and behind the camera.

Q: I have often wondered about the nature of Sam and Frodo's relationship, especially as it develops in "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King." When the books were written, it would have been hard to write explicitly about homosexuality without its becoming the focus. Now, times have changed, and a homosexual relationship could easily exist in the background, without detracting from the overall importance of the story. How do you feel about this?

A: Frodo and Sam would not be the first young gentleman and his servant to be a little in love with each other, but Tolkien doesn't make their affection explicit sexually nor does every reader agree that he has dropped any real hints about it. Theirs is certainly a close interdependent relationship which reminds me more of officer and batman than of active lovers. James Whale says in Gods and Monsters: "There was love in the trenches" but not, I think, in the mind of Tolkien, whose characters on the whole seem indifferent to sex.

Q: When will you be filming the more physically exerting scenes for Gandalf? (e.g. the fight with the Balrog and general sword-fighting).

A: These scenes are spaced through the schedule and I will touch on them in The Grey Book.

Q: Have you ever worked with Brad Dourif (Grima Wormtongue) before?

A: No.

Q: Excluding yourself whom would you have picked to play Gandalf?

A: Mailers have expressed enthusiasm for Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins and Christopher Lee as likely Gandalfs. I would have picked Paul Scofield.

Q: Is there a part in the Lord of the Rings that you would like to play if you were not cast as Gandalf?

A: Were I the right age, I should like to have tackled Frodo I have always been attracted to characters who go on journeys and change/mature as a result.

Q: Gandalf is fictitious - but his role in the fellowship resembles the role of leaders in many real cultures: Shamen, witchdoctors, even priests. Have you referred to elements from these real life mystics in your forming of the character?

A: I haven't felt a need for outside references, as Tolkien's characterisation, especially of Gandalf the Grey, is full of lively particulars. The book is resident in my dressing room/trailer.

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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