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Mr Beaks hangs out with Ian McKellen and asks about his cute co-leading men!!!

Hey folks, Harry here... I can't believe Beaks asked Ian McKellen about his cute co-leading men... He's never really been that obvious about it before... well, except for those lovely photos of the Rock he sent me. Well, here we go...

My introduction to Sir Ian McKellen, the film actor, was at the age of ten via Michael Mann’s THE KEEP. He’s gotten a *little* better since then, as have the movies.

For some reason, I started recording after the first question had been asked, so all I have is McKellen’s response. Rather than bore you with my thoughts on the man I consider our greatest living actor, let’s jump right in.

What I liked about hobbits and wizards was that it was the perfect community because it didn’t have a church. There’s no god in LORD OF THE RINGS. There’s no pope, no bishop, no credo, nobody telling you what to do. (Tolkien’s) a Catholic writer, so they look for those analogies, but Gandalf just says we all have to do what we can do in the time that we’ve got. That’s the closest you get to a belief system.

Do you miss Gandalf’s character?

Miss him? “Gandy”, I call him. (Thanks to some unintelligible, yet tawdry, comment from one of the other journalists, a tangent ensues regarding sex in LOTR. Sir Ian brushes it off, saying “there’s no sex in LORD OF THE RINGS.” Finally, he gets back to the question.) Do I miss him? Well, I haven’t had time to miss him yet. The last bit of Gandalf that I did was shouting down the line from London to Wellington, adding the last final grunts for the battle. That was three weeks ago. So, I had to keep thinking about him because his image is everywhere. But since we finished principal photography, I’ve done a play on Broadway, and in the West End, and I’ve made two movies, so it’s not as if it’s been an ongoing obsession in the way it has been for the director.

What did you take away from the experience of working on this trilogy?

Well, a confirmation that I like working with other people. I think people’s images of actors is that they’re selfish and egotistical and self-obsessed and surround themselves with support systems to boost their egos, but, in fact, while those things may go on… most of the time, what’s going on is that you’re accommodating other people, and working as a team – a fellowship, if you like. That was certainly true of this over a long people, so relationships became more intense and meaningful because you were away from home for a lot of it. Alongside that was the other experience, which was living in a country I had never been to before, New Zealand, and falling in love with every aspect of it.

Would you move there permanently?

I don’t think I will, because I enjoy living in London, and I enjoy city life. And the city life in New Zealand is not as good as it is in London.

Where is your tattoo, and did you need any extra encouragement to get it?

No, I was thrilled with the idea. We were coming to the end of the main part of the work; they all had this idea, and they wanted the old man to join in. It was lovely.

You’ve said in interviews that Gandalf the Grey is a more dynamic character than Gandalf the White. In RETURN OF THE KING, how did you find your character’s motivations?

Well, he’s pretty dynamic, isn’t he?

Actually, I read this on your website.

I wonder… was “dynamic” the word I used?

I believe so.

Well, I think why I like Gandalf the Grey more is that he’s the guy I’d like to spend an evening with. He’s more sociable, isn’t he? He likes a drink, and a smoke, and a chat, and he’s a rather lazy man; he’s not quite focused on the job at hand. He’s taking time off. He likes holidays. Who’d want to spend an evening with the commander? The driven man sent back to finish the job, knowing that the end is nigh, and that when the job is over, that’s the end of Gandalf forever more. That’s the sense in which he’s driven. So, a much less comfortable person to be with. And as for the third film as opposed to the other two, I wasn’t aware of the third film. I just knew that the break came for me between the Grey and the White. What part of the White was in which bit of the film perhaps wasn’t even settled in Peter Jackson’s mind, because obviously things have been changed and moved and cut and rearranged. And the sense of the emotional tug between Gandalf choosing Frodo and Frodo’s acceptance of the responsibility was added really the last time we went back to New Zealand to film, which was in June and July. They wanted to beef up and strengthen that relationship.

And now you’re going to go off to Australia to do DANCE OF DEATH?

I am. Briefly. For the Arts Festival.

You’re reprising this role—

I know! It’s the third time I’ve done it!

It’s becoming a habit.

Well, in the nineteenth century, actors had a repertoire of parts which they played often way past the sell-by date, you know? You shouldn’t be playing Hamlet when you’re sixty, I don’t think. But I’ve revived Macbeth over and over again, and RICHARD III went around the world, and then we filmed it. DANCE OF DEATH I did on Broadway, we did it in London with another cast. It got better, I thought. Deeper. It’s one of the great parts. I don’t think I’ve cracked it yet, so maybe I’ll be cracking it in Sydney.

I was wondering if maybe you’ve thought about filming it?

Um… yes. But no more than that. We made a little video with two cameras; although, I haven’t seen it yet. We’ll have a look at what it’s like.

When are you doing it?

January 6th.

You’ve played so many Shakespearian characters; do you relate Gandalf to anyone in particular?

You know, Shakespeare is so unique and all embracing that you rather reduce him by comparing anybody else to his achievements. But I would say Frodo is a Shakespeare character in a sense, because he goes on a journey of discovery. There are so many characters in Shakespeare that go on a journey, like Edgar in KING LEAR – young men that discover their self worth during the course of the action. But having done Shakespeare, which is often very intimate, often very naturalistic, cheek by jowl with some rhetoric which requires it to be shouted from the rooftops… well, that range is covered by Gandalf, who could be twinkling away in the corner having a pint, and the next minute can be shouting a Balrog down. It didn’t alarm me that I had to do some big acting. In fact, I’ve long been intrigued by how big you can be on film. Some of the performances that we enjoy most are really big performances.

Did those two characters (Gandalf and Magneto) inform each other in any way?

No. They’re both, to my mine, serious works. Very entertaining, but they have a serious intent.

I just meant in terms of their being magical beings in a leadership position—

Well, there was an obvious connection, but no. The problem that relates to them both is that both are superhuman, and one is immortal. You cannot play that. If you play Jesus Christ, he’s the son of God. Play the man. Gandalf… forget the immortality, forget the 7,000 years. Play the man. Get the relationships right.

But they both are telling the people around them, “If you don’t do what I say, our species is going to die.”

Well, in different ways they’re saying that. But don’t ask me to draw parallels between the two, because what I’m constantly trying to do in acting is not repeat myself. I don’t want to think of how similar they are; I just think of them as totally different.

Are you talking about an X3 at all?

I will be doing that tonight with Bryan Singer, who’s coming to see the premiere. I should perhaps try to corner him because he said in an email that, if there’s a third one, he’d like to direct it, and if he directs it, he’d like Magneto to be in it. But he didn’t say he was going to ask me to play Magneto. It could be about a younger Magneto. Those X-MEN stories go forwards and backwards in time.

The theater is obviously very, very important for you to return to. Does it remind you of why you are an actor as opposed to film work?

No, no, no. I’ve learned how to do it, so why throw away an expertise that I’ve learnt over forty years? I’ve a lot to learn about film acting, but I enjoy doing that, too.

And now you get to play Antonio in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE?

Alas, I don’t!

No! It’s not going to happen?

It’s happening, but not with me because they delayed and delayed, and, now, that conflicts with me going to do DANCE OF DEATH.

It would’ve given you the opportunity to do Antonio opposite Al Pacino as Shylock.

Well, I’ve got very few ambitions, and one is to play Antonio, Shakespeare’s major openly gay character. “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad,” the play opens. Well, everybody knows why he’s sad; his boyfriend’s just told him he’s going to get married. That’s what that’s all about, but you don’t see it played like that. And, *at last*, I was going to get to play it on film. And my loss is Jeremy Irons’s gain. (Beaks would like to note that while Irons will no doubt make a fine Antonio, someone *must* give McKellen his chance to play Shakespeare’s melancholy sugar daddy.)

When was the production of EDWARD II done?

Well, we did it on stage in 1969 in London, and then we televised it… probably 1970. I think it was on PBS.

It was on PBS here in ’75.

You probably don’t remember it.

Oh, I certainly did. “Kiss not my hand, Gaveston…”

Oh, that’s good stuff!

It left a huge impression.

Good stuff!

(An unintelligible question is asked next about horse riding and, I think, holding a cain at the same time.)

That is very, very difficult, but I didn’t actually do it. (Laughs.) I did, but I was on a barrel most of the time covered in cowhide, pretending to be on a horse. I had a friend who died making a film when he was riding, when the horse slipped and crushed him to death. I ain’t that brave and foolhardy. So, particularly, riding Shadowfax, who doesn’t have any stirrups, any bridle, and saddle, you’ve got to be expert to accomplish that. So, I let Basil (Clapham, Sir Ian’s riding double) get on with that.

After forty years, is there a character that you have a burning desire to play?

Well, Antonio! I am so upset! By the way, there’s another (MERCHANT OF VENICE production). Patrick Stewart wants to make a film set in the Venetian Hotel in Los Vegas. He said to me, “You don’t want to go wear doublets and hose for Mike Radford; you can come and wear Armani for me in Los Vegas!”

Patrick’s going to direct it?

No, he’s not going to direct it. I also want to play a Dame in Pantomime. Pantomime is the first thing British kids see in the theater when they’re very, very young. And it’s full of dance, song, poetry, simple story, audience participation *and* cross dressing: the principal boy is played by a girl, and the mother, the comic Dame, is always played by a man. I think that’s why the British love the theater so much. They get it all… like a Christmas pudding. All at one go. And they want more of it. Mind you, sometimes I think pantomime confuses them as well. Anyway, next Christmas, I’m finally going to play a Dame.

So far, I haven’t asked any of the actors any personal questions, but this is for you. You’ve worked with a range of amazingly cute male actors.

I know! Aren’t I lucky?

Hugh Jackman…

Hugh Jackman, Brendan Fraser, Brad Renfro, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom…

Who’s the cutest?

Oh, I don’t really label people that way. I got closest, I suppose, to Brendan Fraser. Brad Renfro, I was very touched by him. I thought he had a wonderful spirit and a hard life. Really, I wish him so much good luck. And Robert Downey, I worked with him in RESTORATION, and he then came to do RICHARD III with me. Well, he’s one of the most beautiful men I know, physically and spiritually. And I’ve always wished him the best. And now this gaggle of beauties in LORD OF THE RINGS. They’re all delightful. I woke up on the New Zealand flight. I took a sleep for a moment, but I woke up in the same room on this flight as Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Elijah Wood and Viggo Mortensen, and I thought, “Well, aren’t I the luckiest man in the world?” A little sleepover in mid-air.

I just wanted to say that there was some talk at the time that you did GODS AND MONSTERS, it might’ve just been joking, about you and Brendan Fraser doing a buddy cop movie together.

Well, I didn’t hear about that.

There was an interview where the two of you were joking about that.

Oh, that must’ve been his idea. That’s not a phrase I know, “Buddy Cop Movie”. But, no, I wouldn’t be against that. He’s a terrific actor.

Are you going to be involved on the narration for KINSEY?

No, I’ve been cut out of that, as well.

Why are you being cut out of everything these days?

It’s isn’t that I’m too expensive. Bill Condon, who’s directing KINSEY… I love the idea of the Kinsey Report, which has been a big thing in my life. Very important.

It could be a very important film for this time.

It could. And the way that Kinsey has been reviled of late is sinister, I think. They’re trying to deny the basic conclusions of the book. You know… this has nothing to do with anything, but I was talking to the chief fundraiser for the Democratic Party – I don’t know his name – at a gay event – I don’t think he’s gay, but he was there – and he said that the next election is the next most important in American history, because he fears that if the President gets in again you will move further to a theocracy. I wouldn’t want that for you, and I certainly wouldn’t want that for the world. I think the attempt to debunk Kinsey is part of reestablishing old notions of human behavior, which have nothing to do with what I know about life. But I don’t know why I was cut out of (KINSEY), but I was.

Do you think a Presidential candidate—

Oh, no! I mustn’t go any further down that road!

Coming tomorrow will likely be a sampling of comments from the other folks we talked to, followed by our epic chat with Derek on Wednesday.

Faithfully submitted,

Mr. Beaks

Readers Talkback
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  • FIRST!!! FIRSTIES!!! OH YEAH!!!!!! EAT IT!!! And by the way, Ian McKellen rocks.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 2:55 a.m. CST

    Ian is so charming.

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    He might not speak 8 languages like Christopher Lee, but he has charisma and erudition, as well as being down-to-earth. Talk about an ideal dinner guest. His scenes with Ian Holm at the beginning of Fellowship remain the best acting in the series so far. That said, of the two wizards, I think Chris Lee might be a little bit cooler... in TTT, when Wormtongue is talking about the people of Rohan being vulnerable, and says, "There will be women and children," Lee does this thing with his eyebrows that's worthy of an Oscar all by itself. Well, we haven't seen Gandalf the White really kicking ass in ROTK yet, so I'll reserve judgement... and of course I'll need to see the final face-off in the Extended Editions...

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 2:56 a.m. CST

    i cannot quite explain it . . .

    by microwavable?

    . . . but on any other day, an elderly homosexual man spouting off about "cute" young actors might otherwise creep me out. but this talented dude is just so charming!

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 2:58 a.m. CST

    hahaha whoops

    by microwavable?

    two "ian is so charming" posts in the same minute, bad timing.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 3:12 a.m. CST

    Creepy maybe; but not his words

    by devanjedi

    The "cute" didn't come from Ian. In fact, he says he wouldn't refer to them that way.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 3:30 a.m. CST

    k, that's it: someone name me three Ian McKellen movies aside fr

    by Tall_Boy

    3 movies for 5 days for 5 bucks. I'm thinkin of having a mini- Ian McKellen fest as a warm up to LOTR. So, there's GODS & MONSTERS, RICHARD III andddddd????

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 3:34 a.m. CST

    Link to a particularly apt ROTK review

    by daughter of time

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 3:50 a.m. CST

    There's only one review that really brings it home for me:

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports My, my, what a fine review.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 3:57 a.m. CST

    yeah, that moviejuice review is

    by sanjtsubaki

    We were discussing that in Moriarty's review talkback. Mark Ramsey's shallowness (is that a word?) is staggering.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 4:09 a.m. CST

    tallboy, here you go

    by blue7

    Get the Last Action Hero. Enjoy! I don't know, seriously, maybe Restoration is more what you have in mind.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 4:24 a.m. CST

    What a cool guy...

    by Rupee88

    So many actors are posers and full of sh*t, but this guy is the real deal and we are lucky that he is into playing unusual comic book / sci-fi / fantasy roles. He does it so well and brings much to the roles.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 5:47 a.m. CST

    Last Action Hero

    by Ted_Naifeh

    That was McKellen? That's funny. How's about "The Scarlet Pimpernel" with Anthony Andrews? Ian plays the villain.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 8:24 a.m. CST

    Tall_Boy, check out 'Cold Comfort Farm'

    by Miami Mofo

    McKellen plays a preacher in a weird English countryside town. Although it is not a large part, there is a scene he's in that's absolutely hysterical. I almost wet me pants I was laughing so hard. ***Thanks Mr. Beaks - great job. And although I am looking forward to reading Derek's interview on Wednesday, there's something else I'm looking forward to a whole lot more.

  • I'm sure ROTK will be a great movie, but I get kinda suspicious when I don't see a single bad review. There has to be at least one. Have all reviewers had their lips surgically attached to PJ's ass?

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 9:05 a.m. CST

    Woohoo! Found one.

    by Eternal

    Well, it doesn't exactly tear the movie apart but it does offer some constructive criticism. I feel much better now...

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 9:15 a.m. CST

    Gandalf & Magneto

    by Eternal

    Two totally different characters, yet both played to perfection. Ian fits those roles like a well worn glove. I can't imagine anyone else as either character, especially Gandalf. Chris Lee would have been my other choice but there's no doubt Saruman suited him better. McKellen owns Gandalf now.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 10 a.m. CST

    I have a soft spot for THE KEEP

    by Eternal

    By all accounts it's a terrible adaptation of the book, but it's quite an atmospheric flick if you don't take it seriously. It isn't one of Mann's better efforts, though, and McKellen seems embarrassed most of the time, as if he'd rather be elsewhere. The rest of the cast are wasted, Scott Glenn looked bored, and there's some glaring lapses in logic. However, these misfires are compensated by a terrific Tangerine Dream score, and the bizarre, surreal feel of the entire film. There's nothing else quite like The Keep. Watch it drunk and you'll be fine. A camp classic... one that McKellen would probably like to forget.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 10:03 a.m. CST

    The Tomatometer is at 100%!

    by JAGUART

    21 reviews so far. 210 minutes running time.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 10:19 a.m. CST

    Is he still going out with that kid he went to the Oscars with a

    by rev_skarekroe

    Cradle robber. sk

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 10:45 a.m. CST

    I love Sir Ian's acting, but a "theocracy"?

    by Jean Racine

    He is, indeed, one of the greatest actors of our time, but when he takes lessons in politics from the head fund-raiser for the Democrat party I think it's time to turn the tape-recorder off.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 10:59 a.m. CST


    by DocPazuzu

    I'm with you on The Keep. Not a good movie by any stretch, but oddly compelling and mesmerizing. Let's not forget Gabriel Byrne as the heartless SS officer. Anyone know if it's out on DVD in any region yet?

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 11:54 a.m. CST

    For the Record...

    by mrbeaks

    ... I didn't ask the question re: McKellen's cute leading men. That was the girl from

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 12:12 p.m. CST

    yeah, theocracy

    by 007-11

    Bush thinks God wants him to be president. If he gets another term he'll abolish abortion forever. He's already done away with third term even if the mother's life is at risk. He said nothing when Pat Robertson stated that the State Department should be blown up by a nuclear bomb. He had no problem with Roy Moore defying court orders. He has said flat out that he completely opposes gay marriage and he isn't all that thrilled with homosexuals in general. If there ever was a bible-thumper in the White House it's Bush.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 12:40 p.m. CST

    Suuuure, Beaks...

    by Nordling

    Pin it on someone else... Heh.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 1:12 p.m. CST

    Yes, a Theocracy!

    by TedSallis

    Cheers to Sir Ian for having the balls to point that out!

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 1:34 p.m. CST

    What I would say to Sir Ian

    by zacdilone

    The same thing I say to every other Brit who forms their opinions about American politics from rumour and irresponsible journalism--stick to your own problems, don't try to comment on ours.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 1:51 p.m. CST

    Ho Ho Homophobia

    by Old Lady Shmidt

    Wow, Ian is a true ambassador for gays, even homophobic, confused geeks love him.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 2:10 p.m. CST


    by TedSallis

    No, he's not taking orders from Mullahs, but he's taking plenty of campaign cash from religious groups. Hmmmmm. I guess it all depends on your perspective(!). And it seems like those celebrities mouths arent so big when they say something you agree with, eh?

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 2:11 p.m. CST

    Yes, A theocracy.

    by Homer Sexual

    That's the general trend, for sure. And I am American so I get to say those things. Also, please remember that if people from other countries can't spout off about the USA, then we need to do the same and shut up about other countries (fat chance of that, eh).

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 2:53 p.m. CST

    "no god" in LotR

    by PhilConnors

    What a bafflingly ignorant statement. Especially coming from a character whose most powerful lines of dialogue concern the role of Providence in the events of the book/movie. And it shows the lack of understanding of what LotR is all about. What makes Sauron evil? He is trying to take the place of the one true God. I'm not even a Christian, but you're totally missing the point of LotR if you don't get that.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 3:17 p.m. CST

    Great actor, great interview

    by Thing-Fish

    Ian's totally right about the US becoming a theocracy - although I'm personally more worried about it becoming / being a plutocracy. And Sauronosaurus, McKellen's also right about there not being a _church_ or _god_ in Middle-Earth. There's no defining religious dogma that the inhabitants of Middle-earth stick to, and the only thing that threatens that would be Sauron.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 3:31 p.m. CST


    by 007-11

    Sauronosaurus, Sauron is evil because he is trying to take control of all Middle Earth and either enslave or kill all that inhabit it. It isn't anything to do with God. Maybe that's how it is in the book, but as far as the movies go God isn't involved. Also I must make my apologies to lynxpro, also known as "Mr.Literal". See, when we say theocracy, we're making a generalization. Like how liberals say conservatives are nazis, and how conservatives say that liberals are hippies and commies. Conservatives aren't setting up death camps and liberals aren't a bunch pot heads that haven't seen a bar of soap for a few years and they aren't in favor of an idealistic utopia where no one has more than anything else. In future we will use the words "like" and "similar" to save confusion.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 3:40 p.m. CST

    Ians right about that!

    by JackieJokeman

    Yes with unelected Bishops appointed to the House of Lords the US is indeed becoming a theocracy! uh er wait no, thats England.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 4:01 p.m. CST

    God is very much in both the book and the films

    by jweathers

    In both book and films, Gandalf dies in his battle with the Balrog and is then sent back by God (Erdu Iluvatar) to finish his task. Gandalf makes it clear that nothing happens by chance and that Bilbo was MEANT to find the ring and that Frodo was meant to carry it. God while never mentioned explicitly by name (although his servants the Valar ARE explcitly mentioned in both book and films) is a tangible presence as providence throughout the story. As to what makes Sauron evil, it is his refusal to align his will with Erdu's perfect will. The artist's tool arrogantly trying to improve upon the work of the artist only to mar it. Yes, Sauron is trying to enslave people and dominate Middle-Earth and destroys that which he cannot dominate, but in the final analysis, one must ask: why does this makes him evil? The answer is because he does not have the right to rule and the One who does have that right has decreed free will. So in a very real sense, his chief sin IS that he wishes to replace God. One of the chief themes in both the books and the film is that men do not have the right to this kind of power and that attempts to capture such power ultimately are corrupting and harmful to both those who seek it and those around them. As far as church and organized religion go, McKellan actually has it right. Tolkien made it clear in his letters and in the books that Middle-Earth is in a time before God reached out to man to reveal Himself and that the elves and men who had contact with elves worshipped God in a more implicit way. Again, spiritually is implied and hinted at in both the books and the film, but it is correct that there is no church. Tolkien envisioned Middle-Earth as fictional history for our own world and saw it as fitting in roughly between the Genesis account of creation and the beginnings of the history of Israel.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 4:15 p.m. CST

    Yes, a theocracy for it the will of God that Bush to continue hi

    by Big Bad Clone

    Bush has confidentilly stode through his current administration while god, fate, or whatever has looked out for him. He received less votes than his opponent and won. 911 automatically makes him a brave, great president even though domestically, where his supposed strength of his campaign lay, he was failing. A pretzel nearly killed him. He kicks Afgahnistan's ass when two previous empires failed. He kicks Iraq's ass because they looked at us funny. He doesn't crash that jet he flew on to an aircraft carrier (a very dangerous feat for any active pilot). He didn't get killed sneaking into Iraq to get some Turkey with the troops. Then, the soldiers his has working for him in that god forsaken desert stumble upon the former dictator of Iraq who was put in place by the CIA a few decades ago hiding in a hole that makes that well that kid fell in look cozy. Shit, I want Bush to pick my numbers for the next Lotto drawing. Maybe then I'll stop making fun of his fake Texas accent (I live in Texas, I should fucking know).

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 4:19 p.m. CST

    JWeathers Is Right

    by Barron34

    Spot on. Tolkien's work deliberately conformed to his religious beliefs (the Oxford Don was a Catholic). The religious aspect is not front and center in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but more implied. For a more direct understanding of the religious nature of Tolkein's mythology, read his work "The Silmarillon". "The Silmarillon" gives the entire pre-history of Middle-Earth, as well as it's chief myths and legends, and is effectively a sort of "pre-quel" to "Lord of the Rings". "The Silmarillon" literally starts with the Creation of the World by Iluvatar (Tolkien's literary version of God). Tolkein was very religious, and his writing is explicitly informed by his religion (as well as many other things, from myth to legends and linguistics). I think what Ian McKellean meant by his idea that LOTR was free of God and Churches indicates the idea of free will and free choice int he world of Middle-Earth.Middle-Earth did not have any explicit religions in it, and it's spirituality is more natural (as opposed to the real world, where it is more institutional). In other words, Middle-Earth is not over-run with priests and reverends and bishops telling you who God is and how THEY believe God is to be followed. There is more natural freedom in Middle-Earth than in the real world. I think that this is what McKellan was commenting on. But, the fact is that Tolkein infused his work with his own religious beliefs. JWeathers got it right in his post.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 4:36 p.m. CST

    No Magneto in X3

    by George Newman

    As much as I would like to see him again, especially with Pyro as a bad guy, Magneto should not be in X3. I don't want an ever present bad guy. He'll become the Dr. Evil to the X-Men. That just is not good.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 5:12 p.m. CST

    Mark Ramsey

    by Tigernan

    Sweet zombie Jesus -- what in God's name was that "review"? I've never seen anyone try so hard to be hip before and fail so incredibly awfully. Blech. Double Blech. But on the plus side, that was a great interview with Sir Ian -- what I like about the guy is that it seems like you could literally ask him anything, no matter how banal or urbane, and he'd still give you a thoughtful, pleasant answer. "So, Sir Ian, are you a salad tossing man, or more of a reach arounder?" "Well, in my younger days, I rather much enjoyed the salad, but these bones are far too old for reaching, I must say." Heh heh.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 5:36 p.m. CST

    Sometimes art is greater than the artist

    by Oberon

    ...and McKellen is of course an outstanding actor, easily one of the very best of his generation. And I am sure he fine, warm, generous gentlement (which all accounts suggest he is). But it's clear that he helped translate Tolkien's vision successfully to the screen without really understanding it; which would hardly be the first time this happened with a movie. Sayeth Tolkien himself (which is about a valid a source as possible) in 1953 letter to Fr. Robert Murray, a close friend who had approvingly read the early galley proofs of LOTR:

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 5:37 p.m. CST

    Barron34, JWeathers *almost* got it right.

    by Miami Mofo

    There is no *a* in McKellen. :~)

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 5:42 p.m. CST

    Theocracy? Get a grip, people

    by Oberon

    It's fine to despise George Bush. But "theocracy?" I fear that fear and loathing has wiped put the ability to draw relevant distinctions. If you want to see Theocracy take your next vacation to Iran, where the mullahs occupy all the government posts outright and use only Islamic law to run society. Or an even more extreme example, Taliban-run Afghanistan, where women could be stoned to death for appaearing unaccompanied in public - and where, come to think of it, a certain Texas nutjob threw the mullahs out of power. The U.S. is so far away from that reality as to be in another dimension; calling us a theocracy or anything approaching it is about as insane as all the right-wing wackos who intoned back in the 90's that the Clintons were making us into a Communist dictatorship. You can make the case against Bush without resorting to hyperbole. Really: you can.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 6:31 p.m. CST

    The Keep is not out on DVD

    by Eternal

    Which is a shame. It's a cult movie that deserves a release. Maybe next year. I heard rumors that the DVD version is imminent but there's no confirmation yet. I'd buy it in a heartbeat. :)

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 6:40 p.m. CST

    Toward a theocracy

    by Thing-Fish

    Oberon, I think McKellen's claim is not that the US currently is a theocracy, but that it's getting closer toward it and might become one in the future.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 6:44 p.m. CST


    by Tigernan

    theocracy \the-'ae-kre-se\ n, pl -cies [Gk theokratia, fr. the- + -kratia -cracy] (1622) : government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided -- and as Bush says that he prays and loudly espouses his Judeo-Christian views/beliefs, and is the leader of the country, and does make decisions based on those beliefs, it would seem to fit; however, it's such a broad definition that you could somewhat apply that to any leader of any country.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 6:45 p.m. CST

    Well done jweathers

    by 007-11

    I'll buy that.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 6:46 p.m. CST

    don't knock the Keep!!!

    by Danger Mouse

    The Keep was a great film concidering the tiny budget!

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 7:45 p.m. CST

    Normally a champion of arty, independent fare, the New York Fil

    by williammunny

    Let the ranting begin.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 8:18 p.m. CST

    Were all Meant to do what were ALL meant to do, hey thats from t

    by Rcamacho2278


  • Dec. 15, 2003, 8:26 p.m. CST

    Well said JWeathers and Oberon

    by PhilConnors

    I don't have the time to look it up, but also in JRRT's letters, when asked to define exactly what makes the "good" side good and the "bad" side bad in LotR, Tolkien gave an answer similar to my explanation above. Sauron is worshipped by his followers as God. The problem is, he isn't.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 8:27 p.m. CST


    by Shunkeat

    He is a good actor. Ian McKellen is a good Shakespearen actor. ha ha ROTK will be good. It will do good at the box office and at many awards. It has already won awards. ha ha Have you seen the movie where he outacts Brendan Fraser by this many?

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 8:52 p.m. CST

    tolkien for the soul

    by OldManWillow

    I too like Gandalf the grey better than Mckellen

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 9:19 p.m. CST

    With 31 Critics' Reviews Posted, RotK Earns An Unprecedented 100

    by Jean Racine

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 9:53 p.m. CST

    I don't know about a theocracy,

    by exPFCWintergreen

    But either way, Bush is a fucking idiot and is dragging this world down a very dangerous road. I am not an American, but I hope that those who are elect a different president.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 10:03 p.m. CST

    That's great Mecha-Ghidora

    by exPFCWintergreen

    really... great. Fucking moron.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 10:14 p.m. CST

    And while I'm at it..

    by Senzafine

    Yeah, I'm looking forward to this movie big time. I'm not a trilogy fanboy like everyone else seems to be, but there's no denying that the LOTR trilogy is a damn good one indeed. And Ian McKellen owns either way, so yeah.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 10:43 p.m. CST


    by Ribbons

    I'm pretty sure that was flamebait. Hell, even the reddest of necks knows how to conduct their behavior towards gays with a modicum of sensitivity, 'specially now that they got them Queer Eyes and the Straight Guy.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 10:54 p.m. CST


    by Senzafine

    Just felt fairly agitated about the matter because I had just finished a conversation about something like that when I read that post. But yeah, it most likely was flamebait. Ah well, was sorda off topic anyways.. *shrug* And after hearing that Ebert & Roeper review added to the 30 + fresh reviews on, I have no doubt in my mind this movie will own all things.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 10:56 p.m. CST

    Fagbashers and Return of the King

    by Hawking

    All you fagbashers, and derision-meisters of McKellan, obviously arn't aware how good it feels to have your anus stimulated. Perhaps, next to the Return of the King, it is one of the greatest physical or mental experiences one might have...Also, you Bush bashers--isn't ironic that you bash what you most desire: BUSH! [That must imply some homoerotic suppressed feelings]. The sexual and political inuendo aside, though, Sir Ian is a remarkable actor and genuinely seems like the kind of person one would like to have over for dinner. It is also very, very, very noteworthy that the reviews on the tomatoemeter are ripely 100%. Could this be the best reviewed movie of all time? If there is a negative review that appears on the tomatoemeter in the future, I think we need to single that reviewer out and kick some ass! Because, the Return of the King, thanks in large part to Ian Mckellan, is a great movie, and the trilogy has eclipsed all expectations and will forever hold the mantel of the meek inheriting the earth.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 11:52 p.m. CST

    I respect Ian's work and opinions

    by ejcarter9

    It wasn't too long ago where I would have a negative opinion of Sir Ian because of his hanging around with the Democrats. In my mind, THEY are the ones who try to create friction between groups of people and it's MY party who believe that everyone should be treated equally. I understand where he's coming from, though. The belief that all Republicans are homophobes and Bible-thumpers is wide-spread and I have to admit, not entirely baseless. However I feel that that is the majority... there are many more who DO believe that people have the right to live the lifestyle they want without fear of harassment. As a Christian and a Republican I don't think that this nation will become a theocracy anytime soon, whether or not Bush is President again after the next election. And what's more, there are a vast multitude of people who believe that abortion SHOULD be curbed and feel that any efforts towards that goal are praise-worthy. I count myself among them... a Christian Republican Anti-Abortionist who is absolutely fine with people living the way they choose to. I know I've been among those who have slammed entertainers for voicing political opinions that don't agree with mine. My New Years Resolution, which I've adopted early, is to no longer think less of a person because of a philisophical or political difference of opinion. With that statement, let me also say this... I'd love to see LESS politics discussed with our entertainment articles and interviews. I feel that the two don't play together well. Hell, my wife doesn't want to see Pirates of the Carribean because of Johnny Depp's remarks.

  • Dec. 15, 2003, 11:59 p.m. CST

    Here, Here!

    by Hawking

    What a great and heart-felt commentary....Bless you laddie...

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 12:44 a.m. CST

    No God.

    by xfloydx

    I think he made a good point if he left the word "God" out of his statement. Which i think he said more to strengthen his main point about there being no religions dividing them or getting in the way of things.

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 12:49 a.m. CST

    Anyone else live in Texas?

    by 007-11

    I base my opinions on Republicans and religious zealots on the ones I encounter here and I think we can all agree you run into some of the most rabid of both in Texas.

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 12:58 a.m. CST

    "He wouldn't want that for us...." give me a break...

    by SK909

    I love Ian Mckellan. I think he's one of the greatest actors around. But I just hate how condescending democrats are, as of late. "He" wouldn't want that for us. So he is the final arbiter of what is good or bad for us? Isn't THAT what brings us away from democracy? People thinking they KNOW what's good for you. No longer believing they merely have opinions based on experience, but that they KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR A FACT CAUSE THEY'RE GODS OR SOMETHING. I'm not gonna pick sides on this one , although I DO think the Democrats are having shit-fits lately over EVERY FUCKING DECISION that George Bush makes. Stop telling us that it's the end of the world and start telling us why YOUR opinions on how to run things make MORE sense than the Republicans. It's just sickening. However, we do see this among Republicans as well, although I have to say that I've seen a number of people opposing viewpoints invited to speak their mind on the conservative Fox News and yet have not seen something similar on left-leaning news programs. While I still think he's a blowhard, Bill O'Reilly actually said what I'm trying to get at - that the debate of ideas between Democrats and Republicans is exactly what we need and that it's a healthy thing and that many Democrats are getting to the point where they don't want debate, they just want republicans to shut up and go away and not have a say in this system because they're all insane. Essentially, what they want is a one-party system. Now, I don't know how sincere he was being, but I do have to say that I see a lot more rousing debates and people with opposing opinions on his show than I see on Ted Koppel's, Peter Jennings, 20/20, Tom Brokaw, Crossfire(total shit), and pretty much all other shows. Problem with Chris Matthews - watch them imitate him on SNL. So... I just wanted to say that what I hate about political debate lately is that it's no longer debate in many circles. It's become one party(I could be wrong, but I particularly am thinking of Democrats) trying to tell the other to shut up and go away in a desperate attempt to gain power and tell everyone how to live. Not SUGGEST and point in a certain direction for four to eight years, but to TELL you how to live because they KNOW BEYOND ANY REASONABLE DOUBT what's good for you.

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 3:53 a.m. CST

    Capture of Saddam and War in Iraq

    by exPFCWintergreen

    "Bush has now overthrown the current regime in Iraq...and has captured Saddam Hussein. It's funny...a couple of weeks ago Hillary Clinton was in Iraq...rambling Bush was conducting the war wrong" ............................. I've heard a lot of people, including journalists and politicians, express views similar to this one over the past few days. Hell, on CNN the other day they were just grilling Wesley Clark, asking him whether or not he still stood by his anti-Iraqwar position now that they found Saddam. He said that yes he did and the CNN journalists just looked at him in disbelieve, as if it was plain the capturing of Saddam justified the entire war... That is completely ludicrous. The reason that Bush went to war in the first place was because Saddam was supposed to pose a great threat to the US - I think - it was never actually made that clear why the Western World needed to oust Saddam. The moment this war will become remotely justified, is the moment that US troops find an enormous cache of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. Until then it will remain a bullshit war.

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 5:16 a.m. CST

    "no God"

    by Dan Bryar

    McKellen is maybe a bit too anti-clerical (though obviously he has his reasons--most clerics are anti-him). Still, I don't think he should be read as ignoring the spiritual dimension of the character of Gandalf. In fact in other interviews I've read he's talked about the mystery of grace in relationship to playing the role -- I'll try to find the quote. I think his point is that there's no religious structure to spiritual life in Middle Earth (of course there couldn't be for Tolkien, since it takes place before the Catholic church came into being), so all the faith relationships are personal rather than hierarchical.

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 5:26 a.m. CST

    more from McKellen

    by Dan Bryar

    not to take away from Mr. Beak's interview, but here's a quote from another story in the New York Times (from a couple years ago) in which McKellen discusses the same issues. "Q: What's the difference between preparing for a fantasy role like Gandalf and preparing for a serious and adult role? A: Well, Gandalf is five or seven thousand years old. He has been sent down by the higher powers to help Middle Earth. How on earth do you act those "inhuman" qualities? What you go with is the intense humanity of the character, the old man tramping around the countryside and complaining about his aching bones. It's like if you were playing Jesus Christ -- [...] when you play the Son of God you forget the God part and get on with being the son. [...] But if you are playing someone like Iago, who does extremely horrible things, it's no help to say, Oh, yes, I am doing these things because I am "evil." In fact Iago has very clear motives, which he expresses to the audience. And yet when the reviews came out all of them refer to Iago as the "evil" man, rather like Ronald Reagan referring to the "evil empire." [...] That's one of the few lessons I have learned from studying people who do terrible things -- that they are "all too human". And that we are all too capable of doing almost anything. Q: Is playing characters who do horrible things more interesting than playing those who are good? A: Oh, good characters are very difficult to play. Q: Really? More difficult than evil ones? A: Oh, yes. I mean, do you know any good people? [...] Don't you wonder at them and think, Goodness gracious me, what is their motive for behaving like that? It's so difficult. [...] You see the really good people are the people who are "inhuman", not the really wicked people. Q: Why do you say that? A: Well, I'm twisting words ..."

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 6:12 a.m. CST

    Apt indeed DoT!

    by morGoth

    And thankee kindly for the link. Definetly one of the better reviews particularly by someone who is familiar with Tolkiens original work yet remains objective about the movie adaptation. Finally, a "decent" review {[:^)

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 9:24 a.m. CST


    by Mr T

    Finally someone with some sense. exPFCWintergreen is exactly right, anyone that thinks the US invasion is justified by the capture of Saddam is at best delusional or else a complete nutcase. The (flimsy) excuse was that Iraq possessed 'weapons of mass destruction'. Where are they? I suppose we'll have to wait for the bush brigade to plant some...

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 10:30 a.m. CST

    This whole thing is bullshit

    by 007-11

    Democrats want the Republicans to shut up and are making a mad power grab? You've just described every political party. I find it ironic that you referred to Bill O'Reilly as much as you did and then wagged your finger at the Democrats for wanting the Republicans to shut up. Bill O'Reilly practically has the words "shut up" trademarked. Now i'm not here to exonerate the Democrats, they really need to pick their battles better and show a more determined and solid front, but right now they're in a shit storm from all sides because Saddam has been captured. Everytime I saw reporters talking to Democratic candidates on CNN they were grilling them and trying to make it seem like they've been assholes to ever question anything. So we caught Saddam? That's great, but we didn't go to war just to get him. We went because he supposedly had a huge cache of weapons he was ready to unleash on us at any moment. Bush is playing it really safe on this, he's only talking about how horrible Saddam has been to his people, he won't mention WMD's until they find some. If they do, but I think the Democrats are probably fucked. Most people think that capturing Saddam has completely exonerated Bush. Until I see something more than a tiny vial of bochillism I stand by my views that this whole debacle was a mistake. This war has been horribly mismanaged. Just ask any Iraqi citizen, they barely have power or even acess to gas. Not to mention America is being raped by American companies. I'm not just talking about Halliburton. And we're still fighting 2 wars. Bush never stamped out the Taliban, they're still running freely through the streets, in fact they control a northwestern corner of Afghanistan. We've still got a long way to go folks. And neither party is a real success story right now.

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 12:23 p.m. CST

    Celebrities shouldn't voice concerns about politics?

    by GypsyTRobot

    Funny how that only applies to liberal celebrities. Republican ones can be governor of California, no prob.

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 2:54 p.m. CST

    "the perfect community"

    by Dan Bryar

    Nicole21 is right that most communities dominated by a single secular ideology like communism or nazism have been pretty nasty. However, I can't think of any societies dominated by a single religious ideology like Christianity or Islam that isn't pretty nasty either. Medieval Spain? Puritan-era Massachsetts? Even sweet old Buddhist Tibet was a cruel monarchy before the lamas lost their power and suddenly gained a conscience to replace it. America is a free country in which the majority follows the Christian faith. But it remains free only to the extent that it is NOT a "Christian country" -- where religious ideology becomes a tool of coercive power. Making religion a state institution makes it a worldly institution, and God is driven out. Christ tells us that "Caesar" -- the state -- and God have SEPARATE claims on us. When the church starts doing business with Caesar, Caesar becomes a tyrant and the church becomes a hypocrite.

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 7:05 p.m. CST

    The Greatest part of Lord of the Rings is!?!??

    by Supreme Bashar

    The music of course. Howard Shore and Fran Walsh are collectively genius. Not as good as Bach but better than John Williams as far as "classical music" goes. And Why isn't LED ZEPPLIN on the soundtrack. I Mean C'mon When I heard "The drums will shake the castle walls/The Ringwraiths ride in black" in The Battle of Evermore I almost crapped my pants. So Frelling Amazing!??!??!!?!!!!?!?!??!?!

  • Dec. 16, 2003, 8:49 p.m. CST

    Gondor's theme

    by GypsyTRobot

    I rewatched FotR and during the council scene, when Boromir is ranting about Gondor, Gondor's theme is quietly playing in the background. (this theme plays prominently in the trailer). How frickin' awesome is that??? Guess Shore had all the basic melodies planned out before doing the serious composing.

  • Dec. 17, 2003, 6:50 a.m. CST

    The Keep

    by Wild At Heart

    Hurrah! Good to see a few positive vibes for this piece of cult weirdness, as I'm so used to people pissing on it from on high.Yes, it is visually arresting and wonderfully atmospheric, and, hell, I too would buy it on DVD for the Tangerine Dream score alone. Absolutely fantastic. I really like this film despite its enormous failings. Don't know why really, just do.

  • Dec. 17, 2003, 1:46 p.m. CST

    Christian bullshit and wrong authors of books

    by Stoney-321

    First, I'm pretty sure the Silmarrillion was editited by Tolkien's son Christopher, so who knows if things were embellished that JRR didn't intend. As a long time fan of SF and fantasy lit, the good stuff creates a world from scratch, and Middle Earth's "gods" are the Old Ones. Dump your Christian beliefs to crawl into a new world without pinning your mindset on someone else's vision. I get so sick of uber Christians putting Jesus into everything. If there was a Christian god in Middle Earth, why didn't he lay waste after people blew ram's horns? Or the BIG FUCKING EAGLES carry Frodo and Sam to the rim of the lava river? Maybe the BFE is Jesus. Sheesh. just enjoy the story, folks. It's a different world - not our fucked up right wing USA. And being from Texas, Bush sucks ass, and I am SICK of being woken up a 6:00 AM when Cheney has his F15 escort back to DC after a weekend here. I'm serious when I say it's almost EVERY weekend. Nice way to waste money, fuck knuckle! How 'bout you spend some of that fuel money on some food for starving kids? Or pay our teachers better!

  • Dec. 17, 2003, 2:51 p.m. CST

    Vin Deisel read for Aragon!

    by DrX

    On BBC1's Film 2003 last night Pippin stated that he was very good!

  • Dec. 17, 2003, 4:40 p.m. CST

    Hey Stoney (name says it all)

    by ejcarter9

    Better a fucked-up right wing USA than a fucked-up left wing USA. Of course from your perspective I'm sure that the center looks right-wing. But since it's almost 4:20 you're probably not reading this right now.

  • Dec. 17, 2003, 9:11 p.m. CST

    I'd reply...

    by ejcarter9

    ...but I can't quite figure out what your screen name means. So what if we're hated by the rest of the world? SO WHAT? SO THE FUCK WHAT?? And by the way, define The Rest of the World. France and Germany? North Korea? SO THE FUCK WHAT?

  • Dec. 18, 2003, 12:20 p.m. CST

    some ofyou idiots make me ashamed to be American

    by Stoney-321

    I think I am one of the last people in Texas that hate Bush. Shame. He's an idiot, and ruining our panet, our jobs, our schools.... Continuing to give Texans an "old white boy" flavor.... How can anyone support an idiot that doesn't want Americans to have clean water and fucking air? And I'm not sure what my user name tells you.... I like geology? Ian McKellan is a smart guy. Smart to get a ball rolling and then back away.

  • Dec. 18, 2003, 7:02 p.m. CST

    all of you calm the fuck down

    by perryfarrell

    mckellan was responding to someone who mentioned the theocracy thing, and he didn't agree with them, he just said he didn't want that to happen. that's all, and shit, who does? and he didn't say there was no religious reference to LOTR, he just said there was no actual religion portrayed (in the form of clerics, etc.) in the story. admit it, you all just want to argue, even if there's nothing to argue about.

  • Dec. 19, 2003, 12:19 a.m. CST

    yeah, so?

    by ejcarter9

    Sure. Arguing's fun. Especially when you're right!

  • Dec. 19, 2003, 7:59 p.m. CST

    antiamerican moron

    by Stay_Puft

    I have to agree...WHO THE FUCK CARES WHAT THE "REST OF THE WORLD" thinks? Or better yet, what you think? Where do you get your hostility from? Remember, WE DIDN'T ELECT BUSH, dickhead. I can only imagine what Commonwealth dickwater country you're posting from, full of a bunch of politically impotent fuckwads saying "Everything the the US's fault" and automatically associating every "Yank" with McDonalds and Starbucks. Grow up and get a real world view, jackass.

  • Dec. 20, 2003, 1:57 p.m. CST

    Whoops! Thanks for playing

    by ejcarter9

    Bringing up the election, saying that Bush wasn't elected... that means you've lost this argument. Arguments need to be based in reality if they're going to be productive and if you can't handle that, then just go spout some conspiracty theories elsewhere. But thanks for playing.

  • Dec. 21, 2003, 5:22 a.m. CST

    Checking out whether this talkback is hosed, too

    by Elaine

  • Dec. 22, 2003, 2:25 p.m. CST

    Reflections on Gandalf and the fantastic performance of Ian!

    by the swede

    I have posted this somewhere else on AICN, but I can

  • Dec. 23, 2003, 1:23 a.m. CST


    by djinnj

    TEs, we're in ***66!

  • Dec. 24, 2003, 1:37 a.m. CST

    Iluvatar is God in LotR

    by brassmonkey48

    I agree wholeheartedly with that post up there by Nicole. These actors are living in their own pampered dream world and they say whatever will make them popular. Some very foolish comments indeed. By the way Ian, Iluvatar is God in Lord of the Rings.