Having already gone beyond the pale only to return again, “Lord of the Rings” star Ian McKellen is eager to resurrect his character once more, confirming on his Web site his strong desire to return to Middle-earth as Gandalf the Grey, wisest of the Maia and servant of the Valar, in a planned “Hobbit” prequel to be directed by Guillermo Del Toro .
Now if only Del Toro would actually ask him.
“Encouragingly, ['LOTR' director] Peter [Jackson] and [co-writer] Fran Walsh have told me they couldn’t imagine ‘The Hobbit’ without their original Gandalf,” McKellen wrote. “Their confidence hasn’t yet been confirmed by the director Guillermo Del Toro but I am keeping my diary free for 2009!”
McKellen’s promised involvement in “The Hobbit” comes after a contentious legal battle between New Line Cinema and Jackson. McKellen previously joined his co-stars Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom, all of whom have repeatedly claimed that they would have no involvement with a prequel unless Jackson was somehow involved.
Now that the “LOTR” director is back onboard, there are no more roadblocks to his return, “if Peter Jackson and I have anything to do with it,” McKellen wrote. “He being the producer and me being, on the whole, a very lucky actor.”
Long the foe of the evil Sauron, Gandalf plays an integral role in the “Hobbit” story, as both protector and friend to Bilbo Baggins and his band of treasure-seeking dwarves. At the beginning, he is the one who picks Bilbo to join the quest, seeing something in the adventuresome hobbit that he thinks will prove of value in defeating the dragon Smaug.
In addition, though, and perhaps more important for a connecting film series, Gandalf has a series of journeys only hinted at in the text of “The Hobbit,” which become vitally important in light of later developments in “Lord of the Rings.” For example, it is during the time of “The Hobbit” that Gandalf meets with the White Council to drive Sauron out of Mirkwood. It is also around this time that Gandalf first meets Aragorn (played in the films by Viggo Mortensen), the future king of men.
Although the cast picked up the SAG Award for Best Ensemble in 2004, McKellen was the only actor among the “Lord of the Rings” fellowship to be recognized for his work in the films with an Academy Award nomination. He scored a Best Supporting Actor nod in 2002.
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