Before it became apparent that Peter Jackson was trying to lure almost every cast member from Lord of the Rings back for The Hobbit, there was only one returning actor who really mattered: Ian McKellen. As it happens, his deal was one of the last to close, which led some Gandalf fans to wonder if he was holding out for more money (an assumption that might have been stoked by his coy comments throughout the past year, including, "I am not under contract, no. I'm not going to say any more than that because it might complicate things! ... I'm keeping myself open for offers for 2011"). McKellen took to his blog this week to clear up the rumors, and while he confirmed that his agents were negotiating hard, he claims that his foot-dragging had more to do with advancing age and the snail's pace of The Hobbit's tortured preproduction.
All I had to decide was what to do with the time that is given me. I'm 71 and fit: though at my age who knows what accident is 'round the next corner?
As my agent continued to negotiate with Warner Brothers, I kept wondering was Gandalf what I most wanted to do, more than a new play for instance or indeed a new part? Sequels aren't necessarily as rewarding to act in as their originals.
Could I let Gandalf go? Would anyone else care if I did? Elsewhere, does anyone care that Michael Gambon was not the first to play Dumbledore?
The deciding negotiation was not about money but about dates. Gandalf is needed on set over the next 18 months but with sizeable breaks when I can work on other projects. My worry that I could not easily escape from Middle Earth was lifted.
I am happy to say I start filming in Wellington on February 21 2011.
The Hobbit [McKellen.com]