Empire had the good fortune recently to catch up with one of our favourite knights, Sir Ian McKellen, at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Naturally, we decided to pump him vigorously for the latest on his involvement with those twin towers of movie geekdom: The Hobbit and the X-Men franchise.
First up: The Hobbit. It’s been known for some while now that Sir Ian would be reprising his role as Gandalf (the Grey variety this time) for Guillermo del Toro’s Lord of the Rings prequel. But he had a few additional titbits to spill this time around.
“The scripts for the two films will be delivered very soon,” he revealed. “Then they'll be budgeted, and then they'll be cast. And they'll be going when they've always said they would be, which is next spring – March or April. Guillermo even told me at one point, 'We're going to film for 383 days.' He's got that artistic autism! Jackson's the same; they're very, very, very alike. They also very different, but they've so much in common. They both can't stand Hollywood and have wonderful imaginations, and they're both obsessed with gore and fantasy. Both of them laugh a great deal. Guillermo's one of the most brilliant men I've ever met. His English vocabulary is way superior to mine!”
There’s been fervent speculation about the possible return of other Rings cast members, with the likes of Legolas and Aragorn in the frame for cameos, but Sir Ian isn’t convinced.
“Unforunately, there won’t be many of the actors going back,” he said, “unless they’re going to put masks on and be disguised as dwarves! Andy Serkis is, at the moment, I think, the only other actor who’s doing this film.”
Of course, we fully expect Hugo Weaving to pop up as Elrond, but that announcement will doubtless come in due course.
In the meantime, we couldn’t let Sir Ian – who was at San Sebastian to pick up a lifetime achievement award – go without mentioning X-Men Origins: Magneto, which is still in a state of flux. Rumour has it that the script would call for a McKellen appearance to bookend the prequel action, but the actor says he’s heard nowt.
“There's meant to be a Magneto script floating around, but I've not read it, so I suspect it wouldn't involve me,” he said. “I think it would be about the younger Magneto, and the most I could hope for would be to top and tail that. They can't have someone whose face is as lined as mine any longer!”
Empire, of course, reminded him about the sudden appearance of a mysteriously de-aged Patrick Stewart in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, prompting a hearty guffaw.
“Ooh, he was very pleased with himself that he was going in to be in Wolverine,” cackled Sir Ian. “It was only an hour's work! We were working on Waiting For Godot at the time!”
For further developments on both projects, watch this space.