Ian McKellen says he’s ‘marking time’ until ‘The Hobbit’ begins

July 09, 2010 | 2:12 p.m.

Ian McKellan Lord of the Rings Hobbit X-Men

“This is Ian McKellen, who was a member of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ cast, feeling back home in Middle Earth …”

That’s one of the opening lines of a new but brief interview with McKellen, the two-time Oscar nominee. The intriguing tidbit, though, is that the British actor was speaking at Weta, the esteemed New Zealand visual effects outfit that was cofounded by Peter Jackson and became a mighty cinematic brand name with its work on the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

The Weta folks who conducted the interview were plainly thrilled to have McKellen in the building, and he sounded especially pleased to be there. “Gandalf sends his love …” he purred into the microphone at one point.

McKellen’s presence at the Wellington facility will stir the soul of “Rings” faithful who are growing ever more fearful about the fate of “The Hobbit,” the two-film return to Middle Earth that Jackson is producing.

The dejected defection of director Guillermo del Toro from the project and the ongoing fiscal woes of MGM have created a lot unanswered questions about the project.

McKellen is 71 and probably is wondering if the opportunity to return to the Gandalf role is slipping away.

“I’ve been asking people when ‘The Hobbit’ begins,” he playfully tells his interviewer. “Do you know when ‘The Hobbit’ begins?”

The British actor’s visit to New Zealand, by the way, was part of a tour of “Waiting for Godot” that visited Wellington recently. McKellen has appeared in more than 300 performances of the Beckett masterpiece through the years (including a celebrated staging that reunited him with “X-Men” co-star Patrick Stewart, who was recently knighted himself), but he quipped that this latest revisitation to the role of Estragon is really just him “marking time” until the elusive “Hobbit” gets underway. So it’s “Waiting for Gandalf,” in a sense …

— Geoff Boucher


Ian McKellan in LOTR

Del Toro walks away from Middle Earth — what’s next?

ELSEWHERE: Ian McKellen’s official website

Ian McKellen and the evil mutants on “The View”

24 FRAMES: Wall Street woes undermine “Hobbit”

Peter Jackson: Fans “fed up with the lack of original ideas”

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Can “The Hobbit” escape the “Rings” shadow?

“The Hobbit” is just the beginning of Del Toro decade

Daniel Radcliffe as Bilbo? Star says thanks, but no thanks

Del Toro will take Disney on a scary ride

Photos: Top, Ian McKellen at Spain’s 57th San Sebastian International Film Festival in 2009. Credit: Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images). Bottom, Gandalf in the “Rings” trilogy.

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