Ian McKellen reacts to the idea of someone else playing Gandalf

Image: The Lord of the Rings/New Line Cinema
Image: The Lord of the Rings/New Line Cinema /

Few film roles were better cast than Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Perfectly encapsulating the great wizard’s gravitas, ancient wisdom, and occasional humor, Sir Ian McKellen made the role his own for generations of cinema fans. However, speculation has risen that the character may appear in Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings series, and the actor himself has spoken out about it.

With Tolkien’s world having already been brought so successfully to life by Jackson, fans are both excited and trepidatious about this new series, which is set thousands of years before the original, during the Second Age of Middle-earth. Galadriel, played so memorably by Cate Blanchett in the movies, will be played by Morfydd Clark. Assuming Gandalf shows up at all (Gandalf and the other wizards didn’t appear in Middle-earth until the third age), he probably wouldn’t be played by McKellen.

Craig Elvy of Screen Rant recently speculated that a younger version of Gandalf might appear in the show, played by someone other than McKellen. That attracted the attention of the actor himself. “I think this would be the most upsetting headline I’d ever read,” he joked on Twitter, “if I weren’t gainfully employed elsewhere.”

Ian McKellan says he’s “not too old” to play Gandalf again

In 2017, the actor hinted that he’d be willing to play Gandalf again, suggesting that he’s not too old to play the iconic character. Appearing on Graham Norton’s BBC Radio 2 program over in the UK, McKellen was questioned about the possibility of a new actor taking up the wizard’s staff.

“Amazon are doing a TV series of Lord of the Rings,” said Norton. “Now, isn’t that annoying? That there’s going to be another Gandalf in town?”

“What do you mean, another Gandalf?” responded McKellen. “I haven’t said yes because I haven’t been asked, but are you suggesting that someone else is going to play it? Gandalf is over 7,000 years old, so I’m not too old.”

McKellen remains fully active as an actor, playing the demanding role of Hamlet throughout this year. It’s also worth noting that McKellen’s great friend Patrick Stewart also returned to his most famous role at the age of 80, once again playing Captain Jean Luc Picard’s in Star Trek: Picard.

However, the Screen Rant piece and subsequent fan debate remain mere speculation, with no confirmation that Gandalf will appear in the new series at all. Indeed, while it would please more casual fans, Gandalf appearing in the flesh would likely upset many purists since it would go against the established timeline.

The Lord of the Rings will premiere on Amazon in September 2022.

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