SPOILER Gandalf Talks Horse Sense – Ian McKellen’s Grey Book

by Oct 3, 2000Lord of the Rings (Movies)

“In the mountain range above Takaka on Golden Bay (South Island of New Zealand) Rastus [the horse portraying Bill the Pony] couldn’t make it into the helicopter that ferried the rest of us up and so Panto Bill took over.” (Ian McKellen)

In his October 3 Grey Book entry, actor Ian McKellen (Gandalf) reveals the behind the scenes secrets of two of Middle-earth’s most renowned horses: Shadowfax and Bill the Pony.

Here is a excerpt:

Gandalf’s equine faith lies other than in the likes of Bill the Pony and the chestnut Clyde who dropped him off at Bag End in the first film’s opening scene. As he tells Pippin:

“Shadowfax will have no harness. You do not ride Shadowfax: he is willing to carry you – or not. If he is willing, that is enough. It is then his business to see that you remain on his back, unless you jump off into the air.”

He is speaking of a marvel and Peter Jackson has cast a white 16 year old Andalusian stallion called Domero who, standing at 16 hands is more than up to the part, at least as far as looks are concerned. His alert ears pivot above his noble skull, his mane is thick and in no need of the false hair that some of the other horses, including Bill, wear in the film.

My trouble is in riding him, as Shadowfax spurns bridle, bit, reins and even a saddle. This might all be safe enough with stable lads and lasses at the ready but often enough I am carrying a hobbit in front and clinging to a three foot six hobbit isn’t safe. I am very happy for Basil Clapham (my riding double) to do the galloping in my stead.

Indeed the first authentic image of Gandalf that has been broadcast across the Internet (although not from this site) was not me at all but Basil urging Shadowfax toward Helm’s Deep – actually not Shadowfax either but his fast galloping double 12 year old gelding called Blanco. When I mount Domero he is generally required to be stationary. Even so the shift of haunches whenever he pulls his weight from one back leg to another can feel seismic aloft and once Fon (doubling for Pippin) and I slowly and safely slid to the soft grit of the lava field surrounding the volcano of Ruapehu.

Follow the link below to read the entire article.


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