McKellen says Shakespeare helped him play Gandalf
Reuters.co.uk – December 8, 2003
“Having played Shakespeare where you’re often required to be intensely naturalistic and the next minute rhetorical, speaking blank verse and rallying the troops maybe, that’s quite a good preparation for playing Gandalf,” McKellen told journalists on Monday.
“I know from Shakespeare that big acting works as long as it’s rooted in a truth and a heartfelt emotion and the same is true on the screen. It is surprising how big you can be on the screen when the camera is very close,” he said.
McKellen, who has won more than 40 acting awards and is often described as the leading British actor of his generation, was in Berlin ahead of the European premiere of the last part of the Rings trilogy — “The Return of the King”.
Lauded for his performances in Shakespeare tragedies like Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear and more recently as the villain Magneto in the “X-Men” films, McKellen said bad guys were often the best parts, but Gandalf was an exception.
“It’s one of the reasons I think these films and the books are so popular is that all the concentration is on the good guys. It is a an analysis of good behaviour, of good relationships, of good intentions,” he said.
“It was a big responsibility bringing these characters to life because for so many people they were iconic, but particularly, Gandalf.”
Gone are Gandalf’s long white hair and beard and McKellen is all clad in black apart from a Maori green stone necklace from New Zealand where the trilogy was filmed. But people still ask the 64-year-old actor to sign autographs as Gandalf.
“I now realise that Gandalf is a much loved figure,” he said. “It’s as close as I ever want to get to being famous.”
“Most of my career, and certainly when I’ve been acting best, very few people have seen the work.”
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