Blog | 24 October 2012 | Is it True?
It's been widely reported that Ian McKellen almost turned down the role of Gandalf in The Hobbit.
FAQ: "Is it true you nearly didn't play Gandalf again?"
Now I've returned to Gandalf, I can't quite believe that there was ever any doubt in my mind - but there was! There always is, with any job offer.
In making up my mind, I usually write down the pros and the cons and see which list is the longer or weightier. Thus:
PRO: Working with Peter Jackson is always stimulating and fun: we make each other laugh and he doesn't let me get away with anything too theatrical on film. I admire his world-class colleagues like Andrew Lesnie (cinematographer), John Howe and Alan Lee (designers of Middle-earth) and so many more who returned for The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has become a cinematic classic and the same could well be true of The Hobbit. I enjoy living in New Zealand and exploring the amazingly beautiful countryside.
CON: A two-year commitment to The Hobbit would keep me from other work and keep me away from home and friends in London. I like new challenges and I've already played Gandalf the Grey.
When Peter first told me he had committed to The Hobbit, I immediately cleared my diary and stood by for the call. It was a long time coming, because Peter withdrew from the project and was replaced by Guillermo del Toro. Guillermo and I got on well, with a couple of meetings discussing his approach. Then he too withdrew. So it was back with Peter and then more delays, through illness and disagreements with the New Zealand actors' union. I began to think The Hobbit was jinxed - another reason con.
What clinched it and made up my mind was the advice of a wise friend: "Ian, all those fans of the LOTR aren't going to understand or care about your doubts. They just want to see you back as Gandalf." And then I realised what I'd known all along, that I couldn't bear to think of another actor donning the pointy hat and grey robes.
And that was that. Thank goodness!
Ian McKellen, London, 24 October 2012