One person on this production that needs no introduction is Sir Ian McKellen. From “Richard III” to “X-Men”, from “Gods and Monsters” to “The Da Vinci Code,” McKellen is one of Britain’s greatest acting legends both on stage and on screen. While several actors from “The Lord of the Rings” have returned to make short appearances here, Gandalf is the true bridging character who plays nearly as much a part of this adventure as he does in the previous films. Slipping back into perhaps his most iconic screen role so far, one would think the experience would be a breeze for McKellen.
That wasn’t the case for his first bit of filming on the dinner party scene at Bag End. With the kind of refreshing candour that only true acting legends can get away with, McKellen recalls: “We had rehearsed the scene I was doing with thirteen dwarves and a Hobbit. As a wizard is taller than them, I had to then move away from them and put into my own green screen set … I didn’t feel like being back, I wanted to go away. I was very, very unhappy, miserable.”
Because his character was of a markedly different size to everyone else, McKellen shot his scenes alone on the new ‘Slave-Mo-Co’ camera system. That lack of interaction with the other actors and scenery upset him enough that the production shifted to minimise the need to do these kinds of scenes. McKellen admits: “I think because my reaction was so strong to it, it was very difficult and bewildering, Peter has managed to cut down the number of times we’ve done that since.”