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‘Lord of the Rings’ Script Changes Were ‘Tiresome’ for Ian McKellen, but Kept Cast ‘On Our Toes’

Buzz for "The Lord of the Rings" boomed over the holidays, and the upcoming 20th anniversary of its launch should keep interest raging all year.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”

New Line/courtesy Everett Collection

If social media buzz is any indication, then Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was one of the biggest hits of the 2020 holiday movie season. With all three films in the franchise streaming on HBO Max and a brand new 4K remaster of the trilogy released on home video, “Lord of the Rings” buzz was booming over the holidays. The trilogy will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of its launch in 2021, so don’t expect buzz to die down anytime soon.

As last month was the 19th anniversary of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” Empire magazine recirculated its interview series with the nine actors who made up the eponymous group: Elijah Wood (Frodo), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Sean Astin (Samwise), Dominic Monaghan (Merry), Billy Boyd (Pippin), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Sean Bean (Boromir), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli). The interviews are jam-packed with fascinating intel about the making of the franchise, including Elijah Wood asking McKellen about “the constant barrage of script changes” that took place throughout filming.

“It was tiresome, wasn’t it?” McKellen responded. “Particularly for this theatre actor who has spent a career honoring a text, honed and settled before production starts. Still, it kept us on our toes and I always had the paperback ‘Lord of the Rings’ hidden in my robe, to refer to.”

McKellen and Bloom were the only two actors from the original fellowship to have prominent roles in both of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth trilogies, “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” (Wood did appear in “The Hobbit” as a cameo). When asked what he missed from “The Lord of the Rings” while shooting “The Hobbit,” McKellen answered, “[There were] so many old friends behind the camera, but I missed the old team of actors. Mind you, it was a joy to work with Martin Freeman and the dwarves. I was glad to be rid of that old stick Gandalf the White. The Grey was always my favorite.”

The Empire interview series is also notable for including Viggo Mortensen’s pick for the Tolkien character he wishes Peter Jackson included in the trilogy (hint: it has to do with the Drúadan Forest). Elijah Wood also chose the intimacy of the production as the most surprising thing about making “The Lord of the Rings.”

“How intimate such a large-scale production felt,” Wood responded when asked what most shocked him about production. “I had nothing to compare it to then, but this quality has become more special over time. All of us embarked on something that had never been done before on such a massive scale, tucked away in beautiful New Zealand, and it all felt homegrown, like the world’s largest independent film. That feeling of family and forging a path as we were working was truly extraordinary.”

Head over to Empire’s website to read the interview series in its entirety.

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