I’m sure Sir Ian McKellen cannot count the number of times he has been asked to deliver his famous line from The Lord of the Rings – “You shall not pass!” And though many people recognize him as Gandalf, the 315,000 NZD he raised in Christchurch shows that plenty of people will pay to see him just as himself.
A lucky few were able to catch his show, “Ian McKellen on Stage: With Shakespeare, Tolkien and You,” in Christchurch that benefited the Isaac Theatre Royal that was damaged by the 2011 earthquake. “It is a show I will never do again, he said. “It is absolutely for New Zealand. It is absolutely for Christchurch and for the people who wanted to come along. I don’t think it would migrate very well. I like that. I think people have sensed that this is really for us.”
He was able to do the show on weekends while he was in New Zealand filming The Hobbit. He described the atmosphere as very different from the conventional movie making environment. He said, “There is a sense you are working for a family rather than for an industry. When it comes to landscapes and attitude to the land, this is a very special place. You learn quite early on that most Kiwi men’s ambition is to have enough time after they have earned their money for the week to go fishing.”
Though he has appeared in a number of special effects-laden blockbusters, McKellen said he “would be very happy to play in The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings in more conventional times.” He lamented the difficulties of constantly changing technology, but celebrated the payoffs. “They can do all sorts of things through film technology, in particular cope with the size differential between small hobbits, small dwarves, larger elves, middle-shaped men, and wizards.”
His love of the theatre as an audience member is what encouraged him to pursue acting, but he doesn’t like comparing the stage to the silver screen. “It’s a bit like comparing breakfast with supper,” he said. And it’s more than likely that his future will hold more of both. He said, “I have plans that might involve reviving work I have already done, or doing a new play or, of course, doing a film. I will probably do publicity for The Hobbit films. There is plenty to do.”