Can you imagine The Hobbit without Gandalf? You would have had to if actor Ian McKellan had followed through with his original plan to quit the new Tolkien trilogy.
Many Middle-earth fans themselves questioned whether or not a Hobbit film would ever be made, much less an all-new trilogy. The project was in development hell for years following its initial announcement after Return of the King was released in 2003. The most notable development in the project came in 2008 when Guillermo del Toro signed up to direct before production delays and financial troubles pushed him to quit.
Actor Ian McKellen, who portrayed Gandalf in the original trilogy and reprises the role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was reportedly right behind del Toro.
McKellen tells Reader’s Digest:
“I thought more than twice about it. It begins to wear you down. You think, Do I really want to do this? (A friend of mine) said, ‘Look, Ian, all the fans of Lord of the Rings want The Hobbit to be made, and they want you in it.’ I thought, Yes, I’ve a responsibility beyond my own pleasure. So I had to clear 18 months (from my schedule). And at my age 18 months is quite a long time.”
Fortunately for all of us, the original trilogy’s director Peter Jackson took over as director, and the project got back on track. That’s all probably for the best anyway since it’s a visual world that he created.
The first movie in the new trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is set for release next month. Thankfully, Ian McKellen stuck with it and we’ll see him as Gandalf yet again.