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Feature: The Lord of the Rings

A Wizard’s Currency

Gandalf, Sir Ian and the coin...

Sir Ian McKellen tells Xposé about returning to New Zealand for reshoots on The Return of the King, the differences between Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White, and finding himself on a coin...

It’s three years since Ian McKellen began shooting the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Return of the King is due in cinemas within the month… but amazingly, the actor still hasn’t seen the final film. “No, but there’s nothing extraordinary about that,” he explains, while meeting the press on November 5th to launch a set of legal tender New Zealand dollars produced by the Royal Mint and emblazoned with the images of characters from the Lord of the Rings. “Nobody’s seen it.”

The bulk of the trilogy might have been shot in one mammoth shoot back in 2000, but thanks to re-shoots and re-dubbing, the cast have been working on it ever since. “I put the last of Gandalf’s voice on the last bit of battle about seven days ago,” Sir Ian explains, noting that the work goes on. “I know Howard Shore has still got music to record in Watford, where it’s done, and Peter Jackson is still ‘tidging’ the final edit and putting together the special effects. I think it will probably be delivered in a matter of days now, if not hours, but who it will be delivered to I don’t really know. I don’t expect to see it until the 1st of December when I go to New Zealand for the première.”

So after so long on the project, have the three films merged into one for him? “The three films were shot as one long movie initially, but after the success of the first film some funds were released for them to improve on the second and third ones, and get them up to a better standard. Now I think that if the first one had not been a success, that would not have happened.”

It’s a process that has helped keep the cast enthused about the films, and meant they can see them as separate parts of the story. “It gradually dawned on the actors that ‘Oh I see, here we go again’, and each year it’s felt like we’re producing another film. But as far as the public is concerned, and so far as the actors were concerned in the first place, it was like one long film which happened to be divided into three.

And what about these coins? Freed from his ancient make-up and beard, McKellen looks incongruously dapper in a smart leather jacket as he fools around for the cameras, placing a silver half dollar in his eye like a monocle.

“Well, these are basically commemorative coins that the collectors will want to buy, but they are legal tender,” he comments. “It would be a fool who would spend the coins, as a) they’re far too beautiful and b) they cost a little bit more than their face value which is only 50c. I’m talking about the 18 which will be minted with each of the different characters from Lord of the Rings on them.”

by Anthony Brown

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Xposé Special #24

Photo © New Line Cinema & Anthony Brown
Feature © Visual Imagination 2003. Not for reproduction

Taken from
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Xposé Special #24
Yearbook 2003-04 2003
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