Ian McKellen’s unearthed Lord of the Rings set journals will take you there and back again

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Previously this month, on the 20 th anniversary of his arrival in New Zealand to begin working on The Lord of the Rings, Sir Ian McKellen shared a link to the diaries he ‘d kept throughout production. After blowing off the web 1.0 dust, the entries are a captivating check out how films get made, in addition to an interesting peek behind the curtain of Peter Jackson’s hit trilogy (which is still extremely, very good).

Listed Below, we have actually compiled some of the highlights, varying from amusing stories from the set to more comprehensive philosophical musings.

In one of the earliest entries, McKellen compares early models of Gandalf’s beard to none other than Rasputin’s. He also explains being strained with props– a staff, toffees, a pipe– prior to writing about his experience at the beginning of the shoot.

They had been shooting without me for 3 months and I felt like the new young boy at school as they re-grouped two weeks into the year. And so the audience began by cheering their hard work like a home movie until the story took over and through the silence they watched Boromir die and the hobbits weep as they lose Gandalf to the Balrog.

–25 January 2000

McKellen also reveals himself to be an amusement park lover– who knew?

I am a sucker for film style parks. Disneyland and Universal thrive since their consumers take pleasure in live theatre simply as much as going to the motion pictures.

There in 1995, we shot the climactic battle scenes for our Richard III motion picture.

In the same entry, he tells a very sweet story about dealing with the late Sir Christopher Lee, and making him laugh.

Last week, the day after Gandalf packed Frodo and Sam off to Bree, assuring to satisfy them at The Inn of the Prancing Pony, I worked with Christopher Lee for the first time.


Christopher Lee proves that a distinct voice is a property in the motion pictures. When he speaks, all I see and hear is Saruman, my old associate gone incorrect.

He loves stories about stars and I entertained him last week with one he didn’t know, which I was told by Brian Bedford:

” Noël Coward checks out a poster: Michael Redgrave and Dirk Bogarde in The Sea Shall Not Have Them! ‘I do not see why not– everybody else has.'”

I like making Saruman laugh.

–12 March 2000


frodo and gandalf ride on a car in fellowship of the rings the lord of the rings

Image: New Line Movie Theater

Among McKellen’s other stories about making friends on set includes a (jet-lagged) bad-tempered Sir Ian Holm. However, the entry likewise includes what McKellen calls “the very first important evaluation of Lord of the Rings.”

When the other Sir Ian (Holm that is) arrived from London in March, he was naturally jet-lagged however that didn’t stop his schedule of outfit fittings and make-up tests from taking over straightaway. He was wandering round the workshops in Hobbit feet and a curly wig. I was shooting in the Wellington studio next door and took him to the lunch camping tent. “What’s it like here?” he asked me, dolefully. I informed him he remained in for a reward and within 24 hours he concurred. A month later on, he could not bear to leave, swearing he would be back in New Zealand before the film was complete. This was not that he anticipated the part of Bilbo to be extended. Ian had found the South Island.


I have actually now been shown the first Bilbo/Gandalf scene at Bag End roughly cut waiting for some revoicing that will get rid of extraneous noises and the improved soundtrack of results and music maybe. So here is the very first critique of Lord of the Rings. “Bilbo lives and if the rest of the cast matches Ian Holm’s performance, you remain in for the treat of a lifetime”.

— 8 August 2000

That stated, McKellen’s preferred co-stars aren’t all human. He goes on at some length about the horses on the production, presuming regarding state that he believes they would have done simply great in the mines of Moria.

I’m pleased I didn’t have to work with them.

More my style is the chestnut Rastus who plays Costs the pony and is cute. The certified, ever-licking Rastus is 11 years of ages, an American quarter horse crossed with Shetland. Led by Samwise (Sean Astin) he dependably carried the Fellowship’s baggage and withstood the unpleasant snowstorm of polystyrene and rice flakes when Saruman’s representatives assaulted the 9 of us in the Wellington studio en path for Moria. He was less fazed by the tempest than the rest of the cast, although he didn’t have blinkers on. He didn’t experience dust in the eyes or polysterene balls in every physical crevice. Between takes, as I required mineral water and a makeup check, Rastus calmly assisted himself to the layer of salt which included shine to the surface area of the snow. I wish he had made it into the mines of Moria. He would not have been daunted by all those steps and passageways nor by the rowdy goblins. Indeed I would have trusted him with the ring itself.

— 3 October 2000

Though not as entertaining as a few of the other entries, McKellen also enters into the ins and outs of completing a film, consisting of the truth that changes are de rigueur. In less business-based news, he also blogs about mementos from the set.

Some observers earlier in the year over-reacted to the Grey Book’s news that Peter Jackson was making minimal adjustments to the beginning of that film. They presumed that something had actually gone badly incorrect– in part, perhaps, a negative reaction to the unanimous approval of the “Cannes footage” where journalists and suppliers raved over 20 minutes of finished film.

For a film director to adjust things between the conclusion of principal photography and the movie’s release is, obviously, commonplace, comparable to a chef’s last-minute flavoring or an author’s spellcheck.


Among a couple of more valuable keepsakes are an Alan Lee initial pencil illustration of Gandalf (another gift from the Jacksons) plus I confess hanging in my research study the big keys to Bag End’s round front door which, if anybody asks, I shall swear were provided me by Bilbo Baggins before he left Hobbiton permanently.

My favourite, although I do not consume meat, is Hamburger King’s goblet with a persuading likeness of Gandalf in cameo relief on its bowl.

–24 July 2001


Gandalf stares down the balrog in lord of the rings: fellowship of the ring

Image: New Line Cinema

In his very first entry following the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, McKellen writes a little about the press tour, particularly about being upstaged by Lee and sent into hysterics by Holm.

Chris was invariably gallant and magnificently proficient in not just half a lots European languages (well, Mrs Lee is Danish and he is half-Italian) however also a smattering of small talk from the other four continents.

Perhaps to prove that he too was capable of more than the routine answers with which we responded to the repetitive questions, toward the end of the afternoon, without cautioning Ian Holm introduced into a reply which he ‘d never offered prior to and as I listened, the ludicrous side of the day struck my funny bone. It was like hearing a coworker on phase deliberately diverting from the text he has duplicated night after night throughout a long run. And so I began to laugh. First I simply smiled and after that laughed to myself, just in control, biting my lip so as not to be discovered– after all how to discuss that the sun had finally begun to turn my brain? Then fatigue released my self-control and I began to laugh. And laugh out loud. Ian continued talking. I chuckled some more, carefree and enjoying it now. I stood and rocked on my feet roaring by this time, up until all I might was to escape, laughing across the yard looking for a drink. Chris informed me later that he feared for my sanity. He was right to.

–28 August 2001

In the lead-up to The Two Towers‘ release, McKellen blogs about a surprise at the screening held for the cast, in addition to offering a glimpse at the crew’s top priorities.

– I assisted pop some corn and arrange a screen of candy-bars in the drafty lobby protected over by a full-size Gandalf cut-out and, for me much more alarming, by two Saruman figures.


A tentative schedule for the release is being arranged. The European best will be in Paris and Dan Hennah has actually currently checked the terrain for the post-show party.

–16 September 2002

Lastly, there are McKellen’s recollections of his last day of shooting as Gandalf, battling who-knows-what and receiving Gandalf’s sword as his parting present.

I ended up mid-afternoon standing in front of a green screen near to the video camera, filming a close-up of Gandalf as he coped hidden (certainly non-existent) forces – orcs most likely, although I confess I’m never too sure.


Barrie Osborne, with his widest smile, provided me with Gandalf’s spectacular sword and then, screened on a white sheet, a 4 minute video presentation of the Grey and the White, high areas from the films and low spots too, me forgetting my lines, me swearing, me pea*ing at Gandalf’s original screen test to see how the costume and makeup would work onscreen. Up prior to dawn next day I settled into my seat and attempted to catch sight of the studios as we took off and then I understood – I ‘d forgotten to bring Gandalf’s sword with me!

–16 September 2003

In his final Lord of the Rings journal entry, McKellen leaves us with a touching thought on “the genuine Gandalf,” and his significance to us all.

When I’m asked to sign Gandalf as well as my own name by importunate sign hunters, I explain that Gandalf doesn’t offer autographs and I keep in mind how Alistair Sim always refused, often truly upsetting the juvenile with her album.

Kids, some as young as five, look wonderingly up as their grandparents introduce us, searching for Gandalf in my face. The genuine Gandalf is in other places and I bet those kids know it since they trust him and like him like their grandad.

–12 November 2003

If you’re in need of a Lord of the Rings repair, The 2 Towers and Return of the King are presently readily available to stream on Netflix.

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