Ian McKellen, whom we expect will put on Gandalf's gray robes in director Guillermo del Toro's upcoming Hobbit movies, tells us he's finally read the script for the films.
And, no, he won't tell us much about it, except that producer Peter Jackson (who co-wrote the script with longtime Lord of the Rings collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, as well as del Toro) wrote it specifically for him.
"As Peter has said, they loved writing Gandalf [for The Hobbit] because they knew who they were writing him for," McKellen told us exclusively in an interview last week while promoting AMC's The Prisoner. "There are a lot of characters in The Hobbit, including, crucially, Bilbo, and they don't know who's going to play Bilbo. So it's extremely attractive that this part has been written for me. The other Gandalf was written for, well, just as Gandalf. There's lots for me to enjoy, in all sorts of ways. And I couldn't be happier. But I'm sworn to secrecy. I'm not to say anything at all about the script."
As for del Toro's input into the new script, McKellen said that he and Jackson speak the same language. "They are the same person," he said. "They were separated at birth. They're twins. They have the same attitude. Neither likes working in Hollywood. They're both fascinated by fantasy and violence on the screen, and gore, and things that frighten you. They like going into the psyche. They're both brilliant storytellers in very much the same way. And I think the script, because I have read it, plays very much to Guillermo's strengths, as I've seen them. I have seen his other movies, and people act very well in them. So I think it's all fine. And Peter will always be there."
McKellen said that the role of Gandalf changed his life forever. "I can't believe it's 10 years for me," said the actor, who first played the wizard in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, film one in the trilogy that began principal photography in New Zealand in 1999. "I remember being told by a friend in Hollywood that 'your life is going to change,' and it has. Gandalf is an extremely famous character, and I quite like having him around the corner. He's very popular."