‘Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug’: Ian McKellen talks ‘scruffy’ Gandalf

Dec. 14, 2013 | 9:37 a.m.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo, from left, Jed Brophy as Nori and Richard Armitage as Thorin in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

Ian McKellen as Gandalf, left, and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (James Fisher / Warner Bros.)

Richard Armitage as Thorin, left, and Dean O'Gorman as Fili in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Graham McTavish as Dwalin, left, Ken Stott as Balin, Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Richard Armitage as Thorin and William Kircher as Bifur in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Martin Freeman, left, and John Callen in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

Ian McKellen as Gandalf, left, and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Azog, portrayed by Manu Bennett through motion-capture technology, in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

William Kircher as Bifur, left, John Callen as Oin, Richard Armitage as Thorin and Ken Stott as Balin in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake-town, left, and Ryan Gage as Alfrid in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Peggy Nesbitt as Sigrid, Mary Nesbitt as Tilda and John Bell as Bain in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Azog, portrayed by Manu Bennett through motion-capture technology, in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Lee Pace as Thranduil in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Ian McKellen as Gandalf in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Ian McKellen as Gandalf in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Orlando Bloom as Legolas in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Lee Pace as Thranduil in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Luke Evans as Bard in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

When it comes to the two different incarnations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s heroic wizard, Ian McKellen prefers Gandalf the Grey.

“He’s more fun, isn’t he?” McKellen said earlier this week, speaking at a special Hero Complex preview screening of his new film, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” “He’s more fun to play. He’s scruffy and less driven. We all need Gandalf the White when it comes to the really important business of saving the world, but when you’re down having a drink in Hobbiton, isn’t it Gandalf the Grey you want to be with rather than the other one? That was my feeling.”

It was just one of the subjects that the man Peter Jackson dubbed “the guardian of Tolkien” discussed during an onstage Q&A at New York’s AMC 34th Street 14 & IMAX on Monday. The respected actor also chatted about being known for roles in films such as “The Lord of the Rings” and the “X-Men” series, speculated about what Gandalf might keep under his hat and pondered the ubiquity of “Smaug” costar Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays two roles in the new movie.

“These days a film wouldn’t be complete unless it had Benedict Cumberbatch in it,” McKellen quipped.

Now in theaters, the second installment in Jackson’s latest trilogy adapted from the writings of Tolkien sees Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continue on his journey to assist the company of dwarfs led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) reclaim their lands and the treasure now hoarded by the dragon Smaug (Cumberbatch). Along the way they encounter a host of new friends and foes — including the valiant Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), the first character wholly invented for one of Jackson’s Tolkien movies.

Watch the clip above to hear more of what the 74-year-old actor had to say about playing Gandalf this time out, and look for more clips from the conversation soon.

To find out first about upcoming films that will be featured in the Hero Complex Screening Series, follow us on Twitter: @LATherocomplex.

– Gina McIntyre

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