Today, we couldn’t imagine The Lord of the Rings with any other actor than Ian McKellen playing Gandalf. However, this wasn’t Peter Jackson’s initial idea. In fact, at that time, McKellen wasn’t one of the most prestigious actors in Hollywood, so Jackson tried many others before him.
As far as we know, Jackson tried to cast Simon Russell Beale, Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery, Patrick Stewart, Christopher Plummer, Sam Neill, and Patrick McGoohan as Gandalf. Each of them had their own reasons for not taking the role: scheduling conflicts, health issues, or, as in the case of Stewart, because he wasn’t convinced by the script. But we can be thankful for these rejections, as it ultimately led to McKellen portraying the character, and he certainly nailed the role. But what does he think of being a relatively late option for it?
“I hope they feel like idiots”
In an interview with Variety, the actor was asked about this very topic, whether he cared or not about being one of the last choices to play Gandalf. However, McKellen finds this amusing and takes the opportunity to send a message to those who turned him down:
“I don’t think you’re ever the first choice. I certainly wasn’t for Gandalf. Anthony Hopkins turned it down, and Sean Connery did too. Now they are all coming out of the woodwork, and I hope they feel like idiots.”
While Connery passed away recently, Hopkins has expressed regret for not taking on the role, something he couldn’t do due to his commitment to Hannibal. On the other hand, McKellen himself was close to having to turn it down because the filming of The Lord of the Rings overlapped with that of X-Men, where he played Magneto. However, he managed to quickly resolve it by talking to the studio.