Sir Ian McKellen has become synonymous with the iconic role of Gandalf the Grey, the powerful wizard in J.R.R Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings saga. But McKellen shockingly wasn’t the first choice for Gandalf. Instead of McKellen, Sean Connery almost played the famed character for Peter Jackson’s acclaimed cinematic adaptation of Tolkien’s story.
In an interview with The Independent, McKellen and New Line Cinema executive, Mark Ordesky discussed the casting process for the wizard as part of an oral history piece for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – the first film in Jackson’s fantasy movie trilogy. During the interview, McKellen shared how he wasn’t the first or even second pick for the part of Gandalf in the 2000s movies. “They only wanted me because the established stars said no,” the actor explained. “They wanted Tony Hopkins and Sean Connery.”
Ordesky assured fans that, in fact, the film’s crew “desperately” wanted McKellen. But he did admit that the part of Gandalf and a script for the hit adventure movie had been sent to none other than James Bond alumni Sean Connery first.
“Ian’s being self-deprecating. We desperately wanted him,” Ordesky said. “We did make an offer to Connery, but he said no. We never got an answer until years later, but apparently, he read the material and just didn’t get it.”
Although it is fun to think about Connery traversing around Middle-earth, we are glad that ultimately the part of Gandalf went to McKellen. The star truly embodied the role and captivated attention as the character in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, and The Hobbit trilogy nine years later.
It is hard to think of anyone else playing Gandalf besides McKellen now, even if it is Sean Connery. Many have speculated if McKellen will be reprising his role for Amazon’s upcoming Lord of The Rings TV series or if they will see the more upsetting alternative of him being replaced as the wizard. Stay tuned for updates.