Ian McKellen Describes How He Almost Turned Down the Role of Gandalf
11.12.11 by Ryan
Actor Ian McKellen has played a variety of roles in his long career, but two of his most iconic have been the mutant leader Magneto in the X-Men trilogy and the wise wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. McKellen is reprising the role of Gandalf in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, the upcoming, two-part prequel to The Lord of the Rings, and it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role (thankfully, we don't have to for now). However, during an interview the December issue of Empire (via New Zealand Herald), however, McKellen revealed that he initially turned down the role of Gandalf.
At the time I was about to play Magneto in the X-Men film in Toronto. I was already committed to that ... and it meant I couldn't get to New Zealand in time. So I had to tell [writer-director-producer] Peter [Jackson] I could no longer do Gandalf.
It was that same night that McKellen had dinner in the same restaurant as New Line Cinema executive Bob Shaye, who was an executive producer on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was a fortunate coincidence, since Shaye was able to solve McKellen's scheduling issue.
He said, "I hear you're going to be in our movie." And I said, "Oh, not anymore." And he said, "What's the problem?" And I explained. He just said, "Leave that to me."
That was the best thing he ever did for me, because they worked out they could do without me for the first three months ... that is what I remember of the beginning of it — how I very nearly didn't play Gandalf!
Jackson recently sent out the fourth production blog for The Hobbit, which is still in production. Jackson co-wrote the Hobbit movies with Guillermo del Toro, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens. McKellen is among a few returning cast members from Lord of the Rings including Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Andy Serkis as Gollum, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Sir Christopher Lee as Saruman, and, of course, McKellen.