Ian McKellan: Magneto And Gandalf Were Almost ‘Mission: Impossible’ For The New ‘Mr. Holmes’

Sir Ian McKellan told People that his two most iconic roles almost didn’t happen for him, and all because of the movie Mission: Impossible II starring Tom Cruise.

“It’s ridiculous that I’ve gotten to play both Gandalf [in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies] and Magneto [in the X-Men film saga].”

Ridiculous? Never. If anything, the superb acting talents, presence, and range of Sir Ian McKellan made his casting as both Gandalf and Magneto arguably crucial to the successes of both series.

Were achieving both of these roles impossible? Almost!

These two iconic McKellan characters almost didn’t happen for the 76-year-old British actor.

“I got offered a part in Mission: Impossible II with Tom Cruise, but they wouldn’t let me see the whole script because I might have spilled the beans. I only got my scenes.”

McKellan quoted his own agent, reminiscing, “You can’t say no to working with Tom Cruise!”

Sir Ian replied with, “I think I will.”

He had a night to sleep on it before Bryan Singer asked him to play Magneto and then Peter Jackson asked him to play Gandalf, and McKellan said “yes to both.”

Cue the Mission: Impossible theme here.

“…Bryan Singer’s first X-Men overran its preparation. It had to delay, delay, delay, delay. So I had to call up Peter Jackson and say, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t play Gandalf because X-Men, which I agreed to do first, is overrunning.'”

“And Peter Jackson said, ‘Well, I’ll keep it free for you. Let me know what happens.’ I told Bryan Singer and he said, ‘Well, you must do Gandalf. I’ll make sure you get out in time.'”

And though he, like his character Gandalf, may have been “delayed,” The Fellowship endured and the first LoTR film went off famously.


“Meanwhile, Mission Impossible was put off, put off, put off. And if I had decided to do that, I wouldn’t have been in X-Men and I wouldn’t have been in Lord of the Rings.

Mashable was savvy enough to point out that McKellan did indeed land both roles. He starred as Gandalf in the trio of Lord of the Rings films and the Hobbit films trilogy, and Magneto in four X-Men films and once, though not credited, in The Wolverine.

“It’s all about luck – being there at the right time and ready for it. You can’t prepare for luck. I’ve learned that you’ve got to be ready for the luck when it arrives, but you’re going to need the luck.”

Sir Ian is currently starring in the newest reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes. The film, Mr. Holmes, features an aging version of the detective looking back on his career, and, of course, solving a mystery.

The plot thickens, as the mystery may just involve our own Mr. McKellan’s version of the super sleuth as well.

Famed gay-rights-activist McKellan is known for his ability to deliver heavily dramatic roles. Through his Twitter postings, however, the man behind Magneto has made his lighter side known.

McKellen and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek The Next Generation/X-men), who have been life-long friends their early days as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-Upon-Avon in the U.K. per the Inquisitr, made headlines last week with their dramatic readings of Taylor Swift songs. Ian McKellan read “Bad Blood,” following suit after Stewart selected “Blank Space” for his rendition. The two were inducted via Twitter discussion into Swift’s squad of celebrity fans.

McKellan also covered “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars.

Have you seen the new Mr. Holmes? Which of Ian McKellan’s roles do you most enjoy? Gandalf? Magneto?

[Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images]