The first Lord of the Rings film was an enormous hit. Do you feel any pressure having to follow up the success with The Two Towers?
The anticipation gets scarier as the film’s launch gets closer but the movie’s good so there’s not much worry about.
Looking back at the 15 months you spent in New Zealand filming the trilogy, what sticks out the most?
The fellowship became a reality. With everyone far away from home, we spent our time together on and off the set. We made some of the best friends of our lives. I will always be close to [Sean] Austin, [Billy] Boyd and [Dominic] Monaghan. They are like brothers to me. We went through ups and downs together as a single unit. We all learned how to surf, and we took vacations together. It was so special and profound. I don’t have many friends and most of them live outside LA, so the year in New Zealand was a very important time for me in this respect.
Sir Ian McKellen
What is it like to play Gandalf, a hero who is also a white-headed ancient?
It’s a great role. I think it’s always safest to have make-up and pretend to be something you’re not.
Did you jump at the chance of making the trilogy?
Not really. I didn’t know Gandalf from hobbits, but then I heard that it would be a year’s work and cost $300 million, and I thought, ‘It’s a huge project, maybe I should do it?’ Thankfully, I signed on before I had watched any of Peter Jackson’s films, because they’re not my taste and if I had seen them; I might not have taken the job.
Who do you play?
I play Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan. I guess she’s sometimes described as a female warrior. She’s certainly an excellent swordswoman and horsewoman, and wants to go to war and fight. She’s been brought up as if a man, without any women around her. She’s one of the few female characters in the book. In the third film, she plays an important part in the final battle.
Were you on set all the time?
When I was there, I was there for six months and I stayed there for the whole six months. I didn’t want to leave. It was such a family, and such an experience. I didn’t really want to go home during it!
How does it feel getting to be successful so fast?
It’s incredible. I have to keep pinching myself because I just can’t believe it. I feel really privileged to be an actor, to be paid to do something I love. And I graduated from drama school and just walked into Lord of the Rings – probably one of the most life changing, exciting and memorable experiences of my life.
You have become a heartthrob, so are women throwing themselves at you these days?
Not really. I look completely different in Lord of the Rings. I have long, blond hair and blue eyes in it so people still don’t recognize me much.
by Roald Rynning and James Mottram