How do you make a wizard cry? Leave him alone on set with nothing but some flashing lights and 13 paper dwarves, apparently. Sir Ian McKellen, the 73-year-old legend of British stage and screen known even more widely as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is reprising his role in Peter Jackson's upcoming addition to the franchise, The Hobbit, set for release in Canada Dec. 14. The films' cast and crew no doubt poured their blood, sweat, and tears into its making. Sir Ian, it seems, headed up the tears department.
McKellen is not a fan of the green screen—that technological marvel that allows filmmakers to shoot actors separately from CGI sets, prop pieces, and even their co-stars. He says he broke down out of frustration over a scene in which he was required to act opposite some very unresponsive Middle Earth dwarves: "In order to shoot the dwarves and a large Gandalf, we couldn't be in the same set," McKellen explains to Contact Music. "All I had for company was 13 photographs of the dwarves on top of stands with little lights—whoever's talking flashes up. Pretending you're with 13 other people when you're on your own, it stretches your technical ability to the absolute limits."
"And I cried, actually," he confesses. "I cried. Then I said out loud, 'This is not why I became an actor.' Unfortunately the microphone was on and the whole studio heard." Seems McKellen was feeling slightly sheepish about his behaviour. But it's not difficult to understand his frustration with the process—especially when you consider the budget for the film: about $270,000,000. You'd think they could have sprung for some real live stand-ins. Heck, with that kind of cash they could have flown this guy in to work his magic on old Gandalf—who maybe just needed a good burp.