Ian McKellen E-Posts

"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?"

29 January 2002

Q: After taking part in this movie, do you not have a feeling that every single movie you are work on in future, will be less interesting, or challenging in a way, because of the magnitude of this project?

A: Since completing principal photography on Lord of the Rings more than a year ago, I have enjoyed acting again onstage in the New York season of Dance of Death and am looking forward to my next movie, the X-Men sequel which starts filming in Vancouver in mid-May. Rather than being overwhelmed by the unmatchable success of Fellowship of the Ring, I expect it will draw attention to future work that all of us involved in Middle-earth may tackle. It is certain that a less expensive and less expansive movie will demand the same commitment as my year on Peter Jackson's trilogy.

In a 40 year old career there is now a massive milestone — but the journey continues.

From: Josh Haeger joshmosh127@aol.com

Q: Why did everyone have blue eyes? Is there suppose to a meaning to that?

A: Although coloured contact lenses can change an actor's eyes, as they did dramatically for Halle Berry in X-Men, it was chance that so many of us on Lord of the Rings are naturally blue-eyed. Blue catches the light more than darker colours, which is perhaps why you noticed it.

From: Jack Peterson Jackwal7@hotmail.com

Q: What do you think about the corny Burger King cups and advertisements? It seems to me that they detract from the majesty that the book (and the film) create.

A: There is a wide range of marketing, all designed (from New Line Cinema's point of view) to draw attention to the film — surely a good thing. I hope the device to remind hamburger fans that they might enjoy meeting the characters which adorn the Burger King goblets doesn't offend Tolkien's readers — I write as non-meat eater. Over the years Shakespeare's characters and actors have found themselves at the service of commerce — Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet are cigars and Falstaff's image sells ale. When literature (and movies) inform the popular culture, it is almost inevitable that business will take its own advantage. But my own optimistic take stands, that each illuminated goblet reflects its little light back onto the film's current pre-eminence. That's why I have a set of them at home to decorate my dining table. They really are quite stylish!

Ian McKellen reading FOTR to inner-city kids, Los Angeles January 2002 (Note wizard goblet on table.)
Photo by Keith Stern

From: Chris Solfjell chris_solfjell@hotmail.com

Q: Me and some guys from School went to see LOTR here in Norway. The following days we have now discussed the movie, and there seems to be many small (somewhat insignificant) flaws throughout the movie.. (A car in the background, still waterfalls, brand names on fruit, and the best one, I think, the statues guarding the river near the end of the movie, changing their arm postures...) Do you think the director will use time on correcting flaws like these in the upcoming two movies?

A: You are not alone in spotting these "flaws" which to you are insignificant but to me (and most people I suspect) nigh invisible. I wonder if Peter Jackson and his editors also lack your eagle eyes. More likely he decided that, at least on one viewing, the car etc would be overlooked by the average cinema-goer. I'll look out for it next time I see the movie.

From: Caroline

Q: My question is about the article I saw regarding Peter Jackson debating whether to call the second film 'The Two Towers' after the September 11 tragedy in the U.S. Do you feel changing the name would be an honorable and respectful (perhaps necessary) gesture, or an overly conscious "flinch" that dilutes a well-respected literary work to no significant benefit?

A: To those familiar with Tolkien's title, which predates the World Trade Center tragedy by half a century, any change for the second film of the trilogy might draw attention to the dilemma rather than diffuse it. It is in the end a matter of taste but I can't think that censoring anything which might be misconstrued to impinge on our feelings about 9/11, is either necessary or helpful.

Q: Could you pleeeeeeeezzzzzzeee tell Mr. Bloom that he is a wonderful Legolas (even better than in the book) and I hope he is still able to get out of the door without being buried under tons of teenage girls fan mail - I am thirty years old, by the way;)

A: You can see more of Orlando early on in Black Hawk Down where he keeps his own hair colour but adopts an American accent.

From: b-hh@online.no

Q: Will we see any scenes in the Trilogy from the original book when Gandalf battles the Balrog deep below the abyss of Moria Mines?

A: Yes: but in what detail we shall discover only when Peter Jackson has edited and completed The Two Towers.

Q: I don't know how important Award Shows are to you, but having just stayed up all night to catch a glimpse of the LOTR cast at the Golden Globes, I can't tell you how how upset I am that the show was dissed. You and the rest of the cast should not bother yourself too much with award recognition. If you get them, that is fine, but the fans who truly appreciate you will do so no matter if you win or lose.

A: Awards, particularly in North America, are a help in drawing attention to those movies which are nominated. This can be very important for a movie with a limited release and small advertising budget. Even with Fellowship of the Ring, however, there must be many people who will be finally persuaded to see it because it has the approval of nominating voters, which is why New Line headlines the AFI and other award achievements in its publicity campaign.

From: Juan Guillermo Fernández V. 

Q: People who have read the book are familiar with the fate of Gandalf but people who haven't could be very moved by his reappearance (as was I when reading the book). Have you considered asking Peter Jackson (or whoever is responsible) not putting your name on the front credits of the movie? There have been some actors who have done that in order to take audience by surprise.

A: I have been uncertain what to say when non-readers ask whether I am in the second two films in the trilogy. My replies have swung between "You won't be disappointed," "Trust Gandalf," "Wait and see," "Go read the novel." Perhaps I should avoid spoiling it for the innocent by truthfully saying: "Gandalf the Grey is gone forever." My favourite example of confusing billing was Janet Leigh's in Psycho. No-one expects a movie's star to be bumped off a third the way through.

From: matthew cafaro expert_40@yahoo.com

Q: I am in the US Marine Corps serving in Okinawa, Japan, and am a huge fan of the "The Lord of the Rings." I have heard talk of showing first run movies at base theatres in an effort to boost troop's morale. Do you know if this will be applied with this movie?

A: Sorry not to know, although as the film is not released in Japan until 3rd of March, you and your comrades will most likely have to wait a little longer.

From: Julie Hayes

Q: Have you been personally attacked by anyone that objects to LOTR (and Harry Potter) because they perceive them to promote witchcraft? I have read some letters to newspapers that pursued this line and I wondered if the people that have these weird ideas might take them up with the actors taking part.

A: I have read about these concerns which have so far been more directed toward Harry Potter because of its perceived effect upon impressionable kids. I hesitate to point out that some of Gandalf the Wizard's biggest fans are quite young but maybe Tolkien's work is relatively immune from Christian attacks because of his own Catholic faith. On the other hand, an atheist friend of mine said how refreshing it was to see a film about good and evil which doesn't link morality to religion.

From: Samantha Robinson

Q: I know Christopher Lee met him and was considered a guru on-set but I'd like to know your opinions on one point. If you could ask Tolkien any question concerning the film, what would you ask him?


"Dear Professor T,

Have you seen the movie? Did you mind my borrowing yr accent and intonations for Gandalf?"

Christopher Lee met Tolkien only once — a brief introduction in an Oxford pub.


Additional E-Posts about LOTR may be found in

The Lord of the Rings