Sir Ian McKellen, the incredible British actor best known for playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings series, turns 84-years-old today on May 25, 2023.
The iconic star was an integral part of the series, and after playing the mysterious wizard across the trilogy, he was invited back to the role once again to play the character in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy.
But filming across the prequel movies was vastly different. It included a lot more green-screen scenes than Lord of the Rings.
In comparison, The Lord of the Rings was mostly shot on-location across the plains and mountains of New Zealand, whereas The Hobbit was made up of a lot more studio work.
Because of The Hobbit’s reliance on green-screen, the actors that played the dwarves needed to be filmed in separate locations from the Gandalf star in order to make their height difference obvious.
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Unfortunately for the actor, this meant McKellen was separated from his co-stars for long periods of time during filming.
As a result, the loneliness and the despair he felt left him weeping while the cameras were rolling.
He said at the time: “In order to shoot the dwarves and a large Gandalf, we couldn’t be in the same set. All I had for company was 13 photographs of the dwarves on top of stands with little lights – whoever’s talking flashes up.” (Via Contact Music)
McKellen added: “Pretending you’re with 13 other people when you’re on your own, it stretches your technical ability to the absolute limits.”
The saddened star added: “I cried, actually. I cried. Then I said out loud: ‘This is not why I became an actor!'”
McKellen added that “unfortunately” his microphone was on at the time, so the entire studio – including Jackson – heard his wailing.
In another interview, he confessed to being “miserable” during the shooting of the three prequel movies.
McKellen groaned: “It may be my impression but I don’t remember a green screen on The Lord of the Rings. If Gandalf was on top of a mountain, I’d be there on the mountain. The technology was being invented while we were making the film. I wasn’t involved in any of that, I was away acting on a mountain.” (Via Time Out)
McKellen also recalled: “I tend not to remember the bad times, but I don’t think there were any. I think I enjoyed every single moment of making those films.”
Recently, it was revealed that Warner Bros will be releasing new films in the Lord of the Rings franchise. And Frodo Baggins star Elijah Wood gave his candid response to the series’ return.
Wood told People: “I’m fascinated and I’m excited. I hope it’s good. I’m surprised — I don’t know why I’m surprised because, of course, there would be more movies. Obviously, at the core of that, is a desire to make a lot of money. It’s not that a bunch of executives are like: ‘Let’s make really awesome art.’ And, again, not begrudging anybody because, of course, it is commerce. But great art can come from commerce. So those two things are not mutually exclusive.”
He added: “But Lord of the Rings didn’t come out of that place. It came out of a passion for these books and wanting to see them realised. And I hope that that is ultimately what will drive everything forward with whatever these subsequent movies are.”
He finished: “I just hope that it’s the same motivating factor at its core, whenever they hire a screenwriter and a filmmaker — that it is with reverence for [J.R.R.] Tolkien’s material and enthusiasm to explore it.”
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films are available to watch on NOW.