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Ian McKellen Q&A

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  • David S. Bratman
    excerpts from an interview at the NY Times web site: Q. Are you looking forward to playing a craggy old guy to a theater of overstimulated 10-year-olds? A.
    Message 1 of 11 , Nov 24, 2001
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      excerpts from an interview at the NY Times web site:

      Q. Are you looking forward to playing a craggy old guy to a theater of
      overstimulated 10-year-olds?

      A. Very young people could see "Lord of the Rings," but like the novels
      it's a story for all ages. It is a much more ambitious concept than other
      children's films. I think what connects "Shrek," "Harry Potter" and "Lord
      of the Rings" is perhaps more in their marketing, which is intense and
      saturating.

      Q. What's the difference between preparing for a fantasy role like Gandalf
      and preparing for a serious and adult role, like Edgar in Strindberg's
      "Dance of Death," which you're currently playing on Broadway?

      A. Well, Gandalf is five or seven thousand years old. He has been sent down
      by the higher powers to help Middle Earth. How on earth do you act those
      inhuman qualities? What you go with is the intense humanity of the
      character, the old man tramping around the countryside and complaining
      about his aching bones. It's like if you were playing Jesus Christ -- never
      of course would I recommend this to an actor, because everybody who plays
      Jesus Christ ends their career with that performance -- but what you do
      when you play the Son of God is you forget the God part and get on with
      being the son.

      Q. Alec Guinness was annoyed that he became so closely identified with his
      role in "Star Wars." Do you worry that after "Lord of the Rings" you'll be
      remembered as Gandalf and your Richard III will be forgotten?

      A. Perhaps a clearer way of putting it would be to say, Would I regret
      forever more being associated with Magneto in "X-Men"? I'm not perhaps as
      much a snob as Alec Guinness, and I have perhaps more catholic tastes in
      entertainment than he had. I don't make any distinction between what I do
      and what a hoofer on Broadway does. We are all in the business of keeping
      an audience quiet for two and half hours.

      full article at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/25/magazine/25QUESTIONS.html
      (registration required)
    • Michael Martinez
      ... This is the kind of wit that makes following Ian McKellen in the news so interesting and entertaining. He never struck me as the pretentious sort of actor
      Message 2 of 11 , Nov 24, 2001
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        --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
        > excerpts from an interview at the NY Times web site:

        > A. Perhaps a clearer way of putting it would be to say, Would I
        > regret forever more being associated with Magneto in "X-Men"? I'm
        > not perhaps as much a snob as Alec Guinness, and I have perhaps
        > more catholic tastes in entertainment than he had. I don't make any
        > distinction between what I do and what a hoofer on Broadway does.
        > We are all in the business of keeping an audience quiet for two and
        > half hours.

        This is the kind of wit that makes following Ian McKellen in the news
        so interesting and entertaining. He never struck me as the
        pretentious sort of actor at all.
      • dianejoy@earthlink.net
        ... From: Michael Martinez michael@xenite.org Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2001 03:33:08 -0000 To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Ian McKellen Q&A ...
        Message 3 of 11 , Nov 26, 2001
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          Original Message:
          -----------------
          From: Michael Martinez michael@...
          Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2001 03:33:08 -0000
          To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Ian McKellen Q&A


          --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
          > excerpts from an interview at the NY Times web site:

          > A. Perhaps a clearer way of putting it would be to say, Would I
          > regret forever more being associated with Magneto in "X-Men"? I'm
          > not perhaps as much a snob as Alec Guinness, and I have perhaps
          > more catholic tastes in entertainment than he had. I don't make any
          > distinction between what I do and what a hoofer on Broadway does.
          > We are all in the business of keeping an audience quiet for two and
          > half hours.

          << This is the kind of wit that makes following Ian McKellen in the news
          so interesting and entertaining. He never struck me as the
          pretentious sort of actor at all. >>

          I agree; my respect for McKellen has gone up several notches; I have a much deeper respect for those actors who feel that their job is to entertain rather than to present a message. "Learn your lines and don't bump into the furniture." A certain humility, which holds no specific form or genre in contempt, makes McKellen wiser than Guinness.

          Too bad to learn that Guinness' apparent wisdom as Obi-wan was more mask than reality. (He sure came across as warm and loving---but there was also a kind of distance, too.) ---djb



          The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org

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        • David S. Bratman
          ... There seem to be two theories of acting. One is that all acting bares the self; the other is that all acting is a mask. (Both are true, of course.)
          Message 4 of 11 , Nov 26, 2001
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            At 07:33 AM 11/26/2001 , Diane wrote:

            >Too bad to learn that Guinness' apparent wisdom as Obi-wan was more mask
            >than reality. (He sure came across as warm and loving---but there was also a
            >kind of distance, too.)

            There seem to be two theories of acting. One is that all acting bares the
            self; the other is that all acting is a mask. (Both are true, of course.)
            Guinness, as should be obvious from his work and even more from his writing
            on his craft, was an exponent of the mask theory.

            But no matter how much either actor might bare himself, it would be a
            fallacy to believe that, because either Obi-wan or Gandalf is wise, that
            either Guinness or McKellen is also wise.

            >I agree; my respect for McKellen has gone up several notches; I have a
            >much deeper respect for those actors who feel that their job is to entertain
            >rather than to present a message. "Learn your lines and don't bump into the
            >furniture." A certain humility, which holds no specific form or genre in
            >contempt, makes McKellen wiser than Guinness.

            Let us not reflexively jump on Alec Guinness here. He did not hold popular
            filmmaking in contempt, or he would not have made Star Wars, or many other
            popular-genre films, in the first place.

            One thing that perhaps bothered him about excessive identification as
            Obi-wan was that it overshadowed his other work to a grotesque extent.
            This is something he might not have expected, not knowing at the time SW
            was made what an icon it would become. Here McKellen has a leg up, as
            X-Men and LOTR were popular icons before the films were made.

            And what Guinness specifically said bothered him about Obi-wan was how
            seriously, not to mention solemnly, many of the fans took it. People would
            walk up to him on the street and say "The Force be with you."

            As a devout Catholic, he found this as bothersome as Tolkien found it when
            readers took Middle-earth too seriously. (Or as Spider Robinson - I don't
            know if he's Catholic, but this isn't limited to religious matters - finds
            it when his readers demand the address of Callahan's Place.)

            Eventually Guinness found the perfect Catholic solution. When people would
            say "The Force be with you," he would reply, "And also with you."

            Nor am I sure that Ian McKellen's approach is necessarily the wiser one.
            You cannot act Gandalf's age, origin, and majesty, he says; so act his
            human side and complain about his bones aching. This approach has its
            points, but also its problems.

            First, Gandalf in the book doesn't complain about his bones aching. Rather
            than humanizing Gandalf, this turns him into a different character than the
            one Tolkien invented - one who takes the risk of becoming _merely_ a
            querulous old man.

            Secondly, if McKellen can't act Gandalf's age, origin, and majesty, perhaps
            another actor could. I thought that what you're calling the "distance" in
            Guinness's portrayal of Obi-wan was a very effective way of conveying the
            corresponding parts of that character. Didn't you?

            Well, in a few weeks we'll know what McKellen - whose past work I've
            admired a lot (including Magneto, though my favorite of his characters is
            Amos Starkadder) - actually does with Gandalf. Though I can't say that the
            trailer scene of a mad-eyed Moody, er I mean Gandalf, bursting in and
            crying frantically "Is it safe? Is it safe?" gives me much hope.

            David Bratman
          • Michael Martinez
            ... I m pretty sure that scene is supposed to be from a dream sequence, although I don t have that on any authority. Alec Guinness was a great actor, in my
            Message 5 of 11 , Nov 26, 2001
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              --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
              >
              > Well, in a few weeks we'll know what McKellen - whose past work I've
              > admired a lot (including Magneto, though my favorite of his
              > characters is Amos Starkadder) - actually does with Gandalf.
              > Though I can't say that the trailer scene of a mad-eyed Moody, er I
              > mean Gandalf, bursting in and crying frantically "Is it safe? Is it
              > safe?" gives me much hope.

              I'm pretty sure that scene is supposed to be from a dream sequence,
              although I don't have that on any authority.

              Alec Guinness was a great actor, in my opinion, but he was openly
              critical and abusive of both George Lucas and the Star Wars
              phenomenon. The turning point may have been when he was approached
              by a woman and her young son, who had seen the movie 100 times. The
              actor reportedly told the kid to get a life (or somehting along those
              lines).

              He regarded the dialogue in the movie to be rather banal, and there
              are quite a few scenes where Obi-wan does say what would in ordinary
              circumstances be "stupid things", as when he leaves Luke, Han,
              Chewbacca, and the droids in the control room on the Death Star. He
              turns to Luke and says, "The Force will be with you...always".

              Now, in retrospect, we know a lot more about the Force today than he
              did when he spoke that line. All Guinness had to judge the whole
              thing by was his own experience on the set. If he did indeed
              persuade George Lucas to kill off Obi-wan before the first movie had
              finished production, then Guinness either made a premature judgement
              or else he had the foresight to realize he wasn't cut out to deliver
              pseudo-mystical mumbo-jumbo.

              As you pointed out, McKellen went into the "X-Men" and "Lord of the
              Rings" projects with a much greater understanding of what their
              worlds encompassed. So he had an advantage of perspective over Alec
              Guinness.

              Nonetheless, as much as I admire the late actor's work, I think his
              resentment of the Star Wars phenomenon is a poor reflection on his
              character, no matter how misleading that reflection may be. He was
              certainly very capable of delivering the banal lines in such a way as
              to help build the movie's quality, but he reacted badly to the
              overwhelming reception the audience had for the movie.

              I think actors like Ian McKellen and Richard Harris (Dumbledore) have
              benefitted from watching Alec Guinness' bumpy ride in the Star Wars
              universe. He showed them what they may have to contend with. They
              are both indeed wise to have learned from their predecessor.
            • David S. Bratman
              ... Is that a rumor that was reported to you, or a surmise by you based on the scene s content or style? ... Perhaps you merely do not have the exact report to
              Message 6 of 11 , Nov 26, 2001
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                At 10:35 AM 11/26/2001 , Michael Martinez wrote:

                >I'm pretty sure that scene is supposed to be from a dream sequence,
                >although I don't have that on any authority.

                Is that a rumor that was reported to you, or a surmise by you based on the
                scene's content or style?

                >Alec Guinness was a great actor, in my opinion, but he was openly
                >critical and abusive of both George Lucas and the Star Wars
                >phenomenon. The turning point may have been when he was approached
                >by a woman and her young son, who had seen the movie 100 times. The
                >actor reportedly told the kid to get a life (or somehting along those
                >lines).

                Perhaps you merely do not have the exact report to hand of what Guinness
                actually said, but I would want to see it before I drew any conclusions
                about how critical or abusive about SW he was. (Nor would I rely purely on
                what the boy and his mother said that Guinness said.)

                >He regarded the dialogue in the movie to be rather banal,

                He was far from the only actor, or the only viewer of the films, to have
                thought that. I regret not having this report to hand, but I've read
                accounts of actors on the sets of the various SW movies complaining that
                their dialogue was virtually incapable of being spoken as drama. I can
                certainly, on request, turn up reviews of the films saying the same thing,
                and criticizing the wooden acting of normally non-wooden actors that results.

                >and there
                >are quite a few scenes where Obi-wan does say what would in ordinary
                >circumstances be "stupid things", as when he leaves Luke, Han,
                >Chewbacca, and the droids in the control room on the Death Star. He
                >turns to Luke and says, "The Force will be with you...always".

                I don't really think that's a notably stupid line, and it made sense in
                context even when the film was new. It's not something one would say in
                ordinary circumstances, no, but the same thing can be said about many of
                Tolkien's finest lines. (I would find it very interesting if anyone used
                Gandalf's "For even the wise cannot see all ends" as an argument against
                the death penalty, which in context is what it is.)

                >If he did indeed
                >persuade George Lucas to kill off Obi-wan before the first movie had
                >finished production, then Guinness either made a premature judgement
                >or else he had the foresight to realize he wasn't cut out to deliver
                >pseudo-mystical mumbo-jumbo.

                I hadn't heard that Guinness did this thing. Nor can I criticize him for
                it if he did. I thought the death of Obi-wan was one of the most moving
                parts of SW. Didn't you?

                >I think actors like Ian McKellen and Richard Harris (Dumbledore) have
                >benefitted from watching Alec Guinness' bumpy ride in the Star Wars
                >universe. He showed them what they may have to contend with. They
                >are both indeed wise to have learned from their predecessor.

                And their predecessor, not having either form of their knowledge (the other
                form being the knowledge of what they might be getting into at the time
                they get into it), should not be criticized too harshly for lacking it.

                David Bratman
              • Michael Martinez
                ... It s based on a private conversation with an individual who sometimes knows the score, sometimes is as curious and confused as the rest of us. He was
                Message 7 of 11 , Nov 26, 2001
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                  --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
                  > At 10:35 AM 11/26/2001 , Michael Martinez wrote:
                  >
                  > >I'm pretty sure that scene is supposed to be from a dream
                  > >sequence, although I don't have that on any authority.
                  >
                  > Is that a rumor that was reported to you, or a surmise by you based
                  > on the scene's content or style?

                  It's based on a private conversation with an individual who sometimes
                  knows the score, sometimes is as curious and confused as the rest of
                  us. He was merely sharing an opinion with me, but I felt it was a
                  convincing opinion.

                  Anyway, if I report it merely as my own opinion, no one else will
                  look foolish if it turns out to be incorrect.

                  > >Alec Guinness was a great actor, in my opinion, but he was openly
                  > >critical and abusive of both George Lucas and the Star Wars
                  > >phenomenon. The turning point may have been when he was
                  > >approached by a woman and her young son, who had seen the movie
                  > >100 times. The actor reportedly told the kid to get a life (or
                  > >somehting along those lines).
                  >
                  > Perhaps you merely do not have the exact report to hand of what
                  > Guinness actually said, but I would want to see it before I drew
                  > any conclusions about how critical or abusive about SW he was.
                  > (Nor would I rely purely on what the boy and his mother said that
                  > Guinness said.)

                  I don't recall the precise source for the incident with the woman and
                  the boy, but I believe the actor confirmed it. As for his crack
                  about the banal lines, that was documented in an interview. This is
                  all pretty old Star Wars trivia, long since encrusted with dim
                  memories and rantish recollections. ;)

                  > >and there are quite a few scenes where Obi-wan does say what would
                  > >in ordinary circumstances be "stupid things", as when he leaves
                  > >Luke, Han, Chewbacca, and the droids in the control room on the
                  > >Death Star. He turns to Luke and says, "The Force will be with
                  > >you...always".
                  >
                  > I don't really think that's a notably stupid line, and it made
                  > sense in context even when the film was new. It's not something
                  > one would say in ordinary circumstances, no, but the same thing can
                  > be said about many of Tolkien's finest lines. (I would find it
                  > very interesting if anyone used Gandalf's "For even the wise cannot
                  > see all ends" as an argument against the death penalty, which in
                  > context is what it is.)

                  Well, the point I had in mind (without expressing it) was that it's
                  not an easy line to deliver naturally precisely because we don't (or
                  did not -- at that time) encounter it. It would be much easier for
                  someone to say, "God be with you," in a very convincing tone because
                  we do still hear that. "Vaya con dios" is probably more often heard
                  than "God be with you" (by the general movie-going audience).

                  One might as well go down the street blessing people by saying, "May
                  your ice cream be flexible" as to say, "May Ormon smile upon your
                  heart!" Back in 1977, "The Force will be with you...always" was as
                  strange an idiom as either of those two contrived examples. So the
                  delivery of the line could easily have been stiff and unconvincing.
                  We've all seen movies where the actors were obviously not handling
                  their lines in a free and natural manner.

                  > >If he did indeed persuade George Lucas to kill off Obi-wan before
                  > >the first movie had finished production, then Guinness either made
                  > >a premature judgement or else he had the foresight to realize he
                  > >wasn't cut out to deliver pseudo-mystical mumbo-jumbo.
                  >
                  > I hadn't heard that Guinness did this thing. Nor can I criticize
                  > him for it if he did. I thought the death of Obi-wan was one of
                  > the most moving parts of SW. Didn't you?

                  Indeed, I did. And the death of Obi-wan is a debated topic, although
                  it's not as hot an issue as, say, when "Episode IV" first appeared on
                  screen (in 1999, after a long debate on the news groups, I was
                  convinced that I first saw it in 1978, when the movie was re-released
                  for the first time, after someone cited some early promotional
                  material).

                  > >I think actors like Ian McKellen and Richard Harris (Dumbledore)
                  > >have benefitted from watching Alec Guinness' bumpy ride in the
                  > >Star Wars universe. He showed them what they may have to contend
                  > >with. They are both indeed wise to have learned from their
                  > >predecessor.
                  >
                  > And their predecessor, not having either form of their knowledge
                  > (the other form being the knowledge of what they might be getting
                  > into at the time they get into it), should not be criticized too
                  > harshly for lacking it.

                  But if we don't criticize him for his actions, even though he lacked
                  the experience and knowledge that his successors in simialr roles now
                  possess, we have no frame of reference for determining how well they
                  and others like them receive the inevitable fanniash attention.

                  I think the criticism is justified, even if it's not accompanied by
                  iron-clad citations. I'm not trashing Alec Guinness for becoming
                  intolerant of the Star Wars phenomenon. That is what happened. I
                  think he could have handled it differently, and perhaps he might
                  have, had he been better prepared for the experience. I like to
                  think he would have.

                  Then again, I didn't know him. I still think Ian McKellen is dealing
                  with all the attention directed at him very well. He has fielded
                  some very leading questions with wit and grace. He rises above
                  contention where these movies are concerned, or strives to, and I
                  hope he continues to do that. It's too soon, in my experience, to
                  see how well Richard Harris handles the contentious elements. I've
                  only seen a couple of interviews with him, but he seemed to
                  understand the momentity of the commitment that would be expected of
                  him if he took the role of Dumbledore. I remember him from so many
                  other movies, but a whole generation of young viewers will see him
                  for the first time in this role.
                • jamcconney@aol.com
                  In a message dated 11/26/2001 1:36:23 PM Central Standard Time, ... Wasn t it Harrison Ford who said You can t say dialogue like that--you can only type it. ?
                  Message 8 of 11 , Nov 26, 2001
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                    In a message dated 11/26/2001 1:36:23 PM Central Standard Time,
                    dbratman@... writes:


                    > >He regarded the dialogue in the movie to be rather banal,
                    >
                    > He was far from the only actor, or the only viewer of the films, to have
                    > thought that.

                    Wasn't it Harrison Ford who said "You can't say dialogue like that--you can
                    only type it."? The fact that Alec Guiness DID manage to say it, clearly and
                    convincingly, any number of times in SW makes him an incredibly good actor!
                    Jamaq


                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
                    ... From: David S. Bratman dbratman@stanford.edu Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 09:15:59 -0800 To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject: RE: [mythsoc] Re: Ian McKellen Q&A
                    Message 9 of 11 , Nov 28, 2001
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                      Original Message:
                      -----------------
                      From: David S. Bratman dbratman@...
                      Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 09:15:59 -0800
                      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                      Subject: RE: [mythsoc] Re: Ian McKellen Q&A


                      At 07:33 AM 11/26/2001 , Diane wrote:

                      >Too bad to learn that Guinness' apparent wisdom as Obi-wan was more mask
                      >than reality. (He sure came across as warm and loving---but there was also >a kind of distance, too.)

                      << There seem to be two theories of acting. One is that all acting bares the
                      self; the other is that all acting is a mask. (Both are true, of course.)
                      Guinness, as should be obvious from his work and even more from his writing
                      on his craft, was an exponent of the mask theory. >>

                      Excellent point, of course. I have not read Guinness on the craft of acting, but the mask theory is very ancient, stemming from the Greeks, who literally used masks to characterize.

                      << But no matter how much either actor might bare himself, it would be a
                      fallacy to believe that, because either Obi-wan or Gandalf is wise, that
                      either Guinness or McKellen is also wise. >>

                      Note that I said "apparent wisdom." I do not ascribe to either Guinness or McKellen the apparent wisdom of fictional characters; at bottom, if you wish to take the thorough-going rationalist approach, a character cannot possess wisdom at all, because they do not exist. What wisdom resides in them is that of the *author.* The wisdom I referred to concerned atttitudes toward their craft, genres of films and the problems of typecasting. It seemed to me that McKellen had a broader perspective, but I can also see Guinness' point.

                      >I agree; my respect for McKellen has gone up several notches; I have a
                      >much deeper respect for those actors who feel that their job is to >entertain rather than to present a message. "Learn your lines and don't >bump into the furniture." A certain humility, which holds no specific form >or genre in contempt, makes McKellen wiser than Guinness.

                      << Let us not reflexively jump on Alec Guinness here. He did not hold popular filmmaking in contempt, or he would not have made Star Wars, or many other popular-genre films, in the first place. >>

                      True enough; though I recall feeling some suprise when I heard that he had taken the role.

                      <<One thing that perhaps bothered him about excessive identification as
                      Obi-wan was that it overshadowed his other work to a grotesque extent.
                      This is something he might not have expected, not knowing at the time SW
                      was made what an icon it would become. Here McKellen has a leg up, as
                      X-Men and LOTR were popular icons before the films were made. >>

                      I can see how disturbing being known for only one role can be, but true fans of Guinness should be able to put his role as Obi-wan in perspective with all his other stellar accomplishments. Indeed, Guinness' role as Obi-wan might well spark fan interest in other things he has done; but then, most people are not as curious as all that. I'm not an actor, and don't have to live with the problem of typecasting or being pigeon-holed as one character. I imagine that authors have something of the same problem.

                      << And what Guinness specifically said bothered him about Obi-wan was how
                      seriously, not to mention solemnly, many of the fans took it. People would
                      walk up to him on the street and say "The Force be with you."

                      << As a devout Catholic, he found this as bothersome as Tolkien found it when
                      readers took Middle-earth too seriously. (Or as Spider Robinson - I don't
                      know if he's Catholic, but this isn't limited to religious matters - finds
                      it when his readers demand the address of Callahan's Place.) >>

                      Fans can and do take fiction far too seriously; I've read a number of stories concerning Susan Lucci, the soap actress who plays a notorious villain. I can especially understand how Guinness, as a devout Catholic, would be disturbed when people greeted him with "May the Force be with you."

                      << Eventually Guinness found the perfect Catholic solution. When people would say "The Force be with you," he would reply, "And also with you." >>

                      Very clever! You've increased my respect for Guinness, which was high to begin with.

                      << Nor am I sure that Ian McKellen's approach is necessarily the wiser one.
                      You cannot act Gandalf's age, origin, and majesty, he says; so act his
                      human side and complain about his bones aching. This approach has its
                      points, but also its problems.

                      << First, Gandalf in the book doesn't complain about his bones aching. Rather than humanizing Gandalf, this turns him into a different character than the one Tolkien invented - one who takes the risk of becoming _merely_ a
                      querulous old man. >>

                      Given that Gandalf is who he is, he would not complain about his aching bones. I agree with you on this point; does he actually add such comments into the script? I hope not!

                      << Secondly, if McKellen can't act Gandalf's age, origin, and majesty, perhaps another actor could. I thought that what you're calling the "distance" in Guinness's portrayal of Obi-wan was a very effective way of conveying the corresponding parts of that character. Didn't you? >>

                      I did, indeed. A Jedi knight isn't going to have the same "hail fellow well met" quality as Han Solo.

                      Who would you have preferred as Gandalf? Actually, Alec Guinness came to my mind.

                      << Well, in a few weeks we'll know what McKellen - whose past work I've
                      admired a lot (including Magneto, though my favorite of his characters is
                      Amos Starkadder) - actually does with Gandalf. Though I can't say that the
                      trailer scene of a mad-eyed Moody, er I mean Gandalf, bursting in and
                      crying frantically "Is it safe? Is it safe?" gives me much hope. >>

                      I thought he was wonderful as Starkadder---and loved him in *Gods and Monsters.* I'm not crazy about the scene you describe either, but will wait and see how it works---or if it does---in context. As Gollum said, "We shall see. We shall see." ---djb


                      The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org

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                    • David S. Bratman
                      ... Why, then, did you _contrast_ Guinness and Obi-wan? You wrote, Guinness apparent wisdom as Obi-wan was more mask than reality. In what sense could it
                      Message 10 of 11 , Nov 28, 2001
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                        At 08:42 AM 11/28/2001 , Diane wrote:

                        >Note that I said "apparent wisdom." I do not ascribe to either Guinness or
                        >McKellen the apparent wisdom of fictional characters;

                        Why, then, did you _contrast_ Guinness and Obi-wan? You wrote, "Guinness'
                        apparent wisdom as Obi-wan was more mask than reality." In what sense
                        could it have been reality if Obi-wan's wisdom could not be ascribed to the
                        actor? (And if it were real it wouldn't have been just apparent.) I guess
                        you meant that Obi-wan was wiser about the Force than Guinness was about
                        acting (and that Obi-wan's wisdom is only apparent because he's a fictional
                        character); but if so, your phrasing is easily misunderstood. Sorry about
                        that.

                        >at bottom, if you
                        >wish to take the thorough-going rationalist approach, a character cannot
                        >possess wisdom at all, because they do not exist. What wisdom resides in
                        >them is that of the *author.*

                        Actually, I think not. A large part of wisdom is the ability to deduce
                        what is essential from the mass of confusing and contradictory data around
                        us. The author, as the sub-creator, has a privileged perspective here, and
                        the characters' wisdom is to that extent an ability to perceive the
                        author's intent. Thus it is that authors like Lucas and Tolkien can create
                        characters like Obi-wan and Gandalf who are wiser than the authors are.

                        >I'm not an actor, and don't have to
                        >live with the problem of typecasting or being pigeon-holed as one character.

                        This concerns many actors a great deal. I recall reading that one of the
                        actors in the Jackson film - I think it was John Rhys-Davies - originally
                        declined his role for that reason, and was talked into it by his son, a
                        Tolkien fan.

                        >Given that Gandalf is who he is, he would not complain about his aching
                        >bones. I agree with you on this point; does he actually add such comments
                        >into the script? I hope not!

                        Well, here's a quote from what purports to be a first draft of the script:
                        "GANDALF (bitterly): Why did the Valar put me in this old man's body? How
                        did they think I could serve Middle-earth in this decrepit carcass?"
                        (source: http://www.theonering.net/features/script/characters.html) And I
                        recall reading a similar but not identical statement as a quote in one of
                        the new film books.

                        Gandalf's question could be answered if only he (or perhaps Peter Jackson)
                        had read Appendix B, which states: "The Istari ... were forbidden to match
                        [Sauron's] power with power, or to seek to dominate Elves or Men by force
                        or fear. They came therefore in the shape of Men, though they were never
                        young and aged only slowly."

                        ><< Secondly, if McKellen can't act Gandalf's age, origin, and majesty,
                        >perhaps another actor could. >>
                        >
                        >Who would you have preferred as Gandalf? Actually, Alec Guinness came to my
                        >mind.

                        I would have thought McKellen would do very well. I was merely taken aback
                        by his theory of acting.

                        David Bratman
                      • Ginger L. Zabel
                        --On Wednesday, November 28, 2001, 11:42 AM -0500 dianejoy@earthlink.net ... Is the tune to Jesus Christ Superstar running through the minds of anyone else
                        Message 11 of 11 , Nov 28, 2001
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                          --On Wednesday, November 28, 2001, 11:42 AM -0500 "dianejoy@..."
                          <dianejoy@...> wrote:

                          > << Nor am I sure that Ian McKellen's approach is necessarily the wiser
                          > one. You cannot act Gandalf's age, origin, and majesty, he says; so act
                          > his human side and complain about his bones aching. This approach has its
                          > points, but also its problems.
                          >
                          > << First, Gandalf in the book doesn't complain about his bones aching.
                          > Rather than humanizing Gandalf, this turns him into a different character
                          > than the one Tolkien invented - one who takes the risk of becoming
                          > _merely_ a querulous old man. >>
                          >
                          > Given that Gandalf is who he is, he would not complain about his aching
                          > bones. I agree with you on this point; does he actually add such
                          > comments into the script? I hope not!


                          Is the tune to "Jesus Christ Superstar" running through the minds of anyone
                          else here?



                          _____________________________________
                          Ginger L. Zabel

                          "To be ignorant is not such a shame as to be unwilling to learn." - G. W.
                          Hoss
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