When you think about it keeping a journal during the filming of an epic like Lord of the Rings is kind of an accomplishment all its own since Sir Ian McKellen obviously wanted to keep the memories and enjoy them long after the movies were over and done with. As Andrew Heaton of We Got This Covered says it is a little difficult to believe that 20 years have come and gone since we saw McKellen and the rest of the cast on screen for the beloved saga that took us across Middle Earth and told a story that’s been a classic since before a lot of us were born. There’s no wonder McKellen would want to document as much of this experience as he could since the sheer magnitude of the project was something that deserved a great deal of respect and would later on be likely to cause a good amount of introspection. His journals from this time have been incredibly detailed and even eloquent to the point that one might think that they’d make a fine short film all on their own since McKellen sounds to be much like he is in his Gandalf phase, very well-spoken and given over to a great amount of detail about the experiences he went through with the rest of the cast.
Amazingly it also sounds as though he wasn’t on hand for part of the filming since he was also playing Magneto in X-Men when things kicked off, so he had to miss out on the beginning and come in when he was able. It’s impressive really that he had the chance to play two of the most iconic figures in cinema around that time since despite Magneto being a comic book character that not everyone knew about, McKellen played him up so well that it didn’t matter. A lot of people might have been expecting the muscle-bound figure decked out in spandex that looked like he could break a normal person in half with ease, but McKellen played the role quite well as the elder statesman among the evil mutants that had immense power but also had a very painful history as the beginning of the movie showed when he was separated from his parents in a German death camp. While Gandalf has never been given quite the same treatment, in fact a lot of us likely don’t know his origins since upon showing up in the Hobbit and the LOTR he’s been an old man without any hint of ever having been young, it’s fair to say that he’s been through a few death-defying scenes that are at least comparable.
Of course there’s always the question of what might have happened if someone else had become Gandalf, as Christopher Lee did reportedly audition for the part. Cheryl Eddy of Gizmodo has more on this subject. In one sense though it sounds as though Peter Jackson might have considered Lee a little too old for the role, though it’s also likely that when thinking about the look and attitude of Gandalf, Lee just wasn’t quite the right fit. As Saruman he was undoubtedly perfect since despite the fact that Lee can play a protagonist, as his character did at one point in one of the Hobbit movies, he still appeared quite well-suited for the part of the villain that Saruman became. One has to wonder if McKellen ever thought that someone might come along that could knock him from the role and take over, but obviously that wasn’t the case since Peter Jackson’s choice to use him for this role was widely accepted and became a decision that would work to the betterment of the movies. There is after all something about McKellen when he’s in full Gandalf attire that feels less than regal but far more than the simple appearance he’s given to start with. That is after all the effect of wizards in many stories, some are grand in appearance and wear their power with an authoritative air, while others are simple and don’t bother with announcing their presence wherever they go. Gandalf has always been someone with the propensity to appear haughty and somewhat arrogant but is still seen as a scholar and in many different ways by those he’s interacted with for so long.
Reading McKellen’s journal is easy enough since it’s been made into a blog and is accessible by his Twitter account, and for a lot of fans it might be something of interest since it likely gives access to a lot of inner thoughts and feelings that the actor had about the movie and what was going on in his head when he was getting ready for his role and various scenes. While it’s hard to say if this would interest everyone there are plenty of people that might have questions that McKellen’s journal could answer quite readily.