The ever-reliable New Zealand news miner Susan W. found the following article in the January 12 edition of The Evening Post (thanks Susan!):
Movie Gandalf Flies In
by Simon Beattie
The Evening Post – January 12, 2000
Gandalf the Wizard flew into Middle Earth this week without any fanfare or fireworks.
British actor Sir Ian McKellen, 61, arrived in Wellington over the weekend to take up one of the plum roles in Peter Jackson’s $360 million movie trilogy The Lord Of The Rings.
Filming on the project, which wrapped up in Queenstown and Wanaka just before Christmas, is to resume next week in Wellington and Waikato.
Producer Barrie Osborne said Sir Ian was getting settled in and preparing for his role by working with makeup artists and wardrobe fitters.
Author Robert Foster in his book The Complete Guide To Middle Earth described Gandalf as “a grey-cloaked, grey-haired bent old man . . . [who] passed easily for a meddlesome old conjurer; [but] at times, however, he revealed his true majesty and power”.
In the trilogy, Gandalf was the second most powerful wizard, behind Saruman — being played by Christopher Lee — in a group of wizards called the Istari.
Sir Ian is a veteran of both stage and screen has starred in more than 50 films including And The Band Played On (1993), Richard III (1995) and Gods And Monsters (1998) for which he received an Oscar nomination last year.
Knighted in 1990 for services to theatre, Sir Ian made his name performing Shakespeare on the British stage and joins a cast that includes Liv Tyler, Sir Ian Holm and Elijah Wood.
Meanwhile, publicists of new low-budget New Zealand-made feature film Stickmen, which starts shooting in Wellington later this month, issued a tongue-in-cheek release yesterday saying Sir Sean Connery was neither confirming or denying he would be part of the project.
Last year there was wide-spread media speculation that Sir Sean was the leading contender to be Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings.
Stickmen, about billiards players, was written by Wellingtonian Nick Ward and is to star John Leigh — Lionel Skeggins from Shortland Street. The film is part of the ScreenVisoNZ deal between the New Zealand Film Commission, New Zealand On Air, TVNZ, and Portman Entertainment.