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McKellan Talks Lord of the Rings

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  • Joan Marie Verba
    ... McKELLAN TALKS X-MEN & LORDS OF THE RINGS Once again, Ian McKellan, via his official website s Grey Book section, is talking up both of his high profiel
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 28, 1999
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      Once again, Ian McKellan, via his official website s Grey
      Book section, is talking up both of his high profiel projects:
      X-Men and Lord of the Rings. Here s what McKellan has
      to say now:

      14th OCTOBER 1999
      So the journey has begun without me. On Monday 11th
      October, Elijah Wood et al gathered in Hobbiton -- and I
      hear they are behaving themselves! I have been in Toronto,
      masquerading as Magneto, the master of magnetism, on the
      set of Bryan Singer's X-Men. I have just sent Peter Jackson
      an e-mail of good luck. I don't expect an immediate reply --
      directing a film is totally time- consuming.

      Meanwhile, Tolkien aficionados are mailing to the "Grey
      Book." From teenagers and readers old as wizards come
      the advice, the demands, the warnings - united by the hope
      that the film's Gandalf will match their own individual
      interpretations of the Lord of the Rings. I take comfort from
      the general assurance that they approve of the casting (not
      just of me but of all the other actors so far announced -
      thrilling news that Cate Blanchett is joining us.) Yet how can
      I satisfy everyone's imagined Gandalf? Simply, I can't.

      I recognise the responsibility of course. It's not as if LOTR
      were a play that could be revived over and over, each new
      cast adding to the discoveries that their predecessors have
      made. The Jackson trilogy will be unique. It is, after all,
      unlikely that there will be a re-make any time soon -
      although there have already been the cartoon Hobbit (which
      I have yet to see) and the BBC's radio LOTR (with Ian Holm
      as Frodo). But some of my correspondents seem to think
      that actors are essayists or critics who analyse a character's
      complexities and then parade them, like sticking on a false
      beard. It's just not like that.

      It bears repeating that, as with Richard III or James Whale
      or Magneto, I must discover Gandalf somewhere inside
      myself - and that process depends on absorbing the words
      of the script and its story, listening to the reactions of the
      director and responding to the performances of the rest of
      the cast. So now, still 3 months away from shooting (for
      me), my Gandalf doesn't exist, not even in my mind. He will
      only come to life as the camera turns and discoveries are
      made in the very moment. Even when I am in the thick of it,
      in costume and make-up and speaking Tolkien's words, I'm
      not sure I will be able to describe the character to you.
      Actors don't describe - they inhabit.

      So these Grey Book notes may be more about me than
      about Gandalf and may disappoint the experts who will have
      to be patient and wait for the finished movies. I'm sorry if
      2001 seems a long way off.


      I do know a few things of interest however.

      I've tried on some preliminary costumes from Ngila
      Dickson's designs and had my head measured by Peter
      Owen whose workshops in Bristol UK are in charge of wigs.
      He came to my home in London just after I was back in
      August from a visit to Wellington, where the LOTR studios

      It is fortunate that there are so few illustrations of the novels
      that have impinged on the readers' eyes. Otherwise we might
      get trapped into simply copying them. A 2-dimensional,
      painted Gandalf who looks good on a book-cover might be
      impossible for a flesh-and-blood actor to reproduce. Rather,
      Ngila, Peter and I have started as Tolkien does with "a tall
      pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak and a silver scarf: a long
      white beard" but how tall is "tall", how long is "long" and how
      practical in a high New Zealand wind, are "bushy eyebrows
      that stick out beyond the brim of his hat" ?

      Answering these and weightier puzzles is the responsibility
      of the designers and their craftspeople who have been in
      training for 2 years at the WETA workshops in Wellington. I
      have seen the results of their deliberations - and been
      overwhelmed. Their work on masks, armoury, weapons is
      almost complete and it is complementary to that of the
      visual effects experts who will enhance the New Zealand
      landscapes. They have solved how to make the Hobbits
      appear to be the right size, in any number of ways, most too
      complicated for me to understand. They know whether
      Gollum be an actor or a puppet or a computer effect or all
      three. They have designed Hobbiton and built it -- a year ago
      so it has weathered -- and allowed the vegetation to grow
      round about.

      As a child I was fascinated by books about theatre and
      cinema magic, so I sympathise with those who want
      advance information from the LOTR magicians. It will be up
      to Peter Jackson to decide if and when the secrets are
      made public.
      -- Ian McKellen, Toronto, 14 October 1999

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      Joan Marie Verba verba001@...
      Secretary for the Mythopoeic Press, Mythopoeic Society
      List administrator for DocEx, MythSoc, MNSCBWI, and MNSCREENW lists
      Member of GASP, Keeper of Giles's Writing Desk
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