Did you know Sir Ian McKellen has a blog? I didn’t until recently, and it’s a fact that has brought a lot of enjoyment ever since. Like, for instance, his extremely wholesome and compelling production blogs describing his experience creating The Lord of the Rings.
Recently, McKellen shared these blogs on Twitter, a reminder to the world that, yes, he writes this stuff down, and yes, it’s worth a read. It’s been just over twenty years since production started up on The Fellowship of the Ring, the first film in Peter Jackson’s saga, which means it’s the twentieth anniversary of McKellen writing his thoughts on the whole matter.
20 years ago, I arrived New Zealand to begin filming "The Lord of the Rings." I joined the cast on January 10, 2000. During that time, I kept a journal, which today would be called a blog Perhaps you'll enjoy reading about those heady times: https://t.co/bJ6Nsqgwi2
— Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) January 10, 2020
If you have some time this weekend, it’s well worth a read. McKellen has a lot of insight into both the production process and his own thought process as an actor, where he seems to invest just as much gravitas and care into a role as an ancient, stately wizard as he does any Shakespearean character piece.
(It’s worth noting that the website, at present, seems to be loading incredibly slow. I still got it up eventually, though.)
Like take this early excerpt, for instance, on McKellen’s approach to building character, and how it’s hard for him to put into words:
It bears repeating that, as with Richard III or James Whale or Magneto, I must discover Gandalf somewhere inside myself - and that process depends on absorbing the words of the script and its story, listening to the reactions of the director and responding to the performances of the rest of the cast. So now, still 3 months away from shooting (for me), my Gandalf doesn’t exist, not even in my mind. He will only come to life as the camera turns and discoveries are made in the very moment. Even when I am in the thick of it, in costume and make-up and speaking Tolkien’s words, I’m not sure I will be able to describe the character to you. Actors don’t describe - they inhabit.
The whole thing, separated into the Grey Book and the White Book, after Gandalf’s transformations, is like this, with eloquent bits of actorly insight, as well as descriptions of the production process, from costuming to performing. It’s a compelling read from one of our most compelling actors, and it might add a little extra flavour to your next Lord of the Rings marathon.