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David Bowie Could Have Been Gandalf, Dammit

A casting director explains why it never happened.

In a year of devastating celebrity deaths, David Bowie’s has been one of the hardest to accept. Adding salt to the wound was the news, earlier this year, that the singular performer was slated for a role in next year’s “Twin Peaks” revival before his passing; in a similar vein, we now know a little more about his would-be role in “The Lord of the Rings.”

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Dominican Monaghan, who plays Merry in Peter Jackson’s trilogy, confirmed long-standing rumors when he told the Huffington Post that Bowie “came in and signed his little list and went in. And I’m assuming he read for Gandalf. I can’t think of anything else he would’ve read for.” Rumors have long abounded about Bowie’s potential involvement in the franchise, with some speculating that he actually wanted to play Elrond (a role that went to Hugo Weaving; Gandalf, of course, was played by Ian McKellan).

HuffPo reached out to casting director Amy Hubbard for clarification and received the simple answer that Bowie was just too busy. “He was unavailable,” Hubbard explains. “It was a very quick conversation with the legendary Chris Andrews at CAA. I do believe that [Bowie] went over and played for everybody at the Millennium party. That would’ve been New Year’s Eve in the year 1999, which was when the films were being shot. He went over and entertained everybody, but he never auditioned. That’s for sure.”

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All three films were shot at once, representing a huge time commitment for all involved — and one that Bowie simply couldn’t do. Hubbard recalls that he’s “pretty sure it was Peter Jackson’s idea in the first few weeks that we got going” to reach out to Bowie, and though few would take issue with McKellan’s Oscar-nominated performance, this certainly represents a fun “what if?” scenario to ponder.

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