Lord of the Rings:
Note: Christopher Lee is Saruman; Ian Mckellen is Gandalf; John Rhys-Davies is Gimli.
(edited for length and to fit in the forums in 2 parts)
PART I of II
Q. How did you get cast?
Christopher Lee: I got a call from my agent saying that Peter Jackson was directing Lord Of The Rings. "Would you go and see him and talk to him? Would you do a reading? And would you mind if they videotaped you during the meeting?" In the case of this great epic, I was perfectly happy to go, to be seen and photographed, and to read. I went along and saw him in a very small room in the back of a church in London.
John Rhys-Davies: What about this business of you getting down on your knees and begging?
CL: That's not on film. That... ah...came later. He showed me, as he showed you, all these wonderful photographs of locations in New Zealand, and some of the characters John (Howe) designed. I thought, "This is going to be something unique in my life as an actor, something I always dreamed about." (I'd thought this would become a film one day, and that maybe I would be in it. So occasionally dreams do come true! Not very often.)
Q: First you wanted to be Frodo?
CL: No...Bilbo perhaps.
Q: Many people said you wanted to play Gandalf, years ago.
CL: Oh, well...years ago, when the books came out! And, I was too young to play Gandalf. I was! When the books came out, somebody said to me, "Did you read these books, and do you think they will be made into a film?" I said it'd be a wonderful thing, but I doubt it. And he said, "What would you like to play?" And, of course I said Gandalf, nothing strange about that. Who wouldn't? But now, I'm far too old to play Gandalf. And when I saw what Ian did, apart from his performance, and seeing what he had to do physically, I was extremely thankful! I was even looking at you (Ian) running through the mines yesterday (in the footage.)
Ian McKellen: Well, I'm not sure that was me.
Q: What do you remember of meeting Tolkien?
CL: Very little. I was up in Oxford meeting some friends, and we were in the Randolph Hotel. Someone said, "What are you doing here, this is all rather correct and proper; lets go to a pub." This was forty-five + years ago. We were sitting there talking and drinking beer, and someone said, "Oh, look who walked in." It was Professor Tolkien, and I nearly fell off my chair. I didn't even know he was alive. He was a benign looking man, smoking a pipe, walking in, an English countryman with earth under his feet. And he was a genius, a man of incredible intellectual knowledge. He knew somebody in our group. He (the man in the group) said "Oh Professor, Professor..." And he came over. And each one of us, well I knelt of course, each one of us said "how do you do?" And I just said "Ho.. How.. How..." I just couldn't believe it. But I'll never forget it.
IM: I think meeting writers is more special than meeting...
CL: Of course, they originate the whole thing..
IM: ...than meeting the Queen or stars. I remember being at the National Theater the year Arthur Miller sequestered. When the author of Death of a Salesman walked on the stage, I don't know. Or, when I once saw Samuel Beckett rehearsing. It's just so thrilling. CS Lewis, I used to attend his lectures at Cambridge...
CL: Well, he was a member of the same club, the Inklings, as was Tolkien at Oxford. He wrote three wonderful books.
IM: I think Tolkien has been looking down, or up, on this project. He was always there. The books were always there, just off the set in every single scene. Last minute checks...did we get it right, is that what he wanted, is that what he intended? The devotion to that man, I think, was equal to that of Peter Jackson. It was always there, it never was out.
Q: Like a director checking with a composer?
IM: It was just like that.
Continued in Part II
All images are copyright © New Line Cinema 2001