|There's something magical about Ian McKellen. Widely
lauded as one of the finest actors of his or indeed any generation, he was
best known for searingly brilliant performances in art house hits like
Richard III and Gods and Monsters. But it was his turn as the
malevolent mutant Magneto in X-Men that thrust him into the realm
of the blockbuster. With anticipation for The Lord of the Rings: The
Two Towers in which the Sir Ian reprises his Oscar nominated role as
the wizard Gandalf growing stronger by the minute, A&F presents our
interview, conducted just before the release of The Fellowship of the
Ring by X- Men executive producer and cowriter Tom DeSanto, with this
lord of stage and screen.
Ian? Who's that?
It's Tom. Oh... Thomas. How are you doing?
I'm all right. Is now a good time for you? Yes. Real fine. There
is a very nice English painter who is painting me at the moment. (pause) I
don't mean that he is putting paint onto my body... He's painting my
Well, maybe that can happen later. I'm going to be interviewing you.
So you are working for Abercrombie & Fitch, Thomas? What lengths will
you not go to ... ?
Anything for publicity. You've had quite the interesting journey
with this little film. I don't know if anyone's heard about it --this
Lord of the Rings movie. You tell me, what's the word on it?
It's the most anticipated film of the year. I think too often people
are coming out of theaters disappointed and angry and feeling a little
jaded. But the one golden ring left, which everyone is going to grab for,
is The Fellowship of the Ring. I saw the director, Peter
Jackson, the other day, and he was very chipper about it all. He said it
was the film he wanted to make. You can't do better than that, considering
all the things that could've gone wrong.
Peter wrote and directed and shot all three films back to back it
really took over his life so that's the ultimate vote of confidence.
The Lord of the Rings saga is sort of the ultimate quest. It's really
about a journey and the realization that those characters go through on
that journey. How did Lord of the Rings affect you? I think if
I'd been playing Frodo, the part that Elijah Wood plays, or another
hobbit, like Sean Astin--the Hobbits stick together through all three
movies and emerge at the end as sort of heroes I think perhaps if I'd done
that, I would have felt, you know, that I'd been on the journey. But when
you play Gandalf, who's sort of organizing the thing as commander in
chief, he's not always...
He's sort of above the action. Yeah. Particularly in the second
two films. I just enjoyed being in the company of those particular people
and that particular place. But where it did have a huge effect on me
personally was being in New Zealand. I think it may be the most rewarding
job I've ever had, 'cause it was a long job, and I was living in that
country for a year and almost immediately liked it. I liked the size of
it. It was very small -only 3 million people there- and it has a lot of
empty space and a lot of beautiful and varied landscapes. Extraordinary
I remember seeing your photographs. Wild forests and primeval
forest and glaciers and hot volcanoes, all quite close to each other.
Is that the thing that stuck with you most? You're aware of that
immediately, if you respond to that sort of thing. Every day you have off,
there's stuff to go and see: to be taken up a mountain on a helicopter and
just dumped there; you walk on snow where human beings had never been
before, and yet you are only two hours from the capital city. So that was
the big effect Lord of the Rings had on me. It was discovering New
Zealand. And even more precious were the people- not at all like the
Australians. And they're not really like the British, from whom many are
descended. They're really a South Seas culture. And like Peter Jackson,
they walk around with no shoes on.
You had a gang of actors, you were on the opposite end of the world
and you were sort of alone- but together. What's your favorite memory of
them? Probably when we all went to the tattoo parlor and had a tattoo
done. (laughs) What did we do together? I think my favorite memory is
actually the work. Arriving in this fabulous location at a ridiculous time
in the morning, gradually seeing the dawn coming up and being with a group
of people who all liked that sort of experience. There was nobody saying
"I wish I was in L.A." or "God, get me an English breakfast."
Oh, it sounds amazing. A lot of this is captured on film. I
suspect the sense of camaraderie is there, and I'm certain, of course,
that the landscapes are.
There's a sense of magic that seems to be surrounding the films,
palpable sort of feeling that there's something special there. If Gandalf
could leap off the page and give a message to the planet what do you think
he would be telling us mere mortals? He would probably say, "Try and
understand what part you have to play in the world in which you live.
There's more to life than you know and it's all happening out there.
Discover what part you can play and then go for it. If you ran do that in
the company of other like minded people, life doesn't come much better
And if Ian McKellen could give one message... Yeah, it would be
the same message.