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Not all that glitters is gold

Working On The Hobbit Made Ian McKellen Cry And Not Happy Tears

Those who’ve never acted believe it’s an easy job with a great paycheck but that’s not always the case. Certain scenes may require an actor to pull out emotions they’d rather stay buried, and do so over and over for countless takes, but it wasn’t a heart-wrenching scene that made Sir Ian McKellen cry on set of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. So what made him get weepy? 

It was actually the lack of real human emotion that made McKellen break down. In an interview with Contact Music, the thespian explained how the overuse of green screen technology on the film caused him to cry.

“In order to shoot the dwarves and a large Gandalf, we couldn’t be in the same set. All I had for company was 13 photographs of the dwarves on top of stands with little lights – whoever’s talking flashes up,” he said. “Pretending you’re with 13 other people when you’re on your own, it stretches your technical ability to the absolute limits.”

If time allows, many creators like to have actors on set to help their fellow stars, even if they won’t be seen on screen. You can see an example of this in some of the behind-the-scene featurettes on the Lord of the Rings DVDs. But usually, and especially on productions on scale with The Hobbit trilogy, that’s not the case. So, McKellen had a bit of a tantrum.

“I cried, actually. 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.”

Whether he would have copped to the drama had he not been heard by countless others remains a mystery but I give him credit for admitting his frustrations. The actor was already reticent to return as Gandalf but was eventually convinced. “It was a little like going back to something that wasn’t necessarily going to be particularly challenging,” he told The Hollywood Reporter adding that it was actually the thought of the millions of fans who were waiting for it that sold him. “They wouldn’t understand if you weren’t as keen as they were,” he said.

(via Blastr)

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  • Ashe P. Samuels

    This makes me really sad, wow. Judging by the behind-the-scenes and commentary alone, you can sense the camaraderie between all the actors and filmmakers. I can’t blame him for missing it.

  • R.O.U.S.

    That makes me so sad… all the changes in the industry must be a difficult and morose evolution for classical actors.

  • Whatthefkk

    While it’s sad, this is still a movie series that he chose to participate in, as he chose to participate in the X-Men series (which, I imagine, had comparable green screen effects). Regardless of whether he did or did not enjoy his experience on the films, he will be remembered and respected for his roles in The Lord of the Rings series. Ian McKellen is a great actor. But crying because of CGI effects seems silly. There are plenty of films that do not rely of CGI that Ian McKellen would surely easily be cast.

  • Life Lessons

    Hang in there Sir Ian!

  • Idle Primate

    I suppose he didn’t know he was signing on for a second trilogy. He is getting old. It would weigh on me if felt obligated into years more work on a project I thought finished years back. I can understand the frustration trying to give your best and having no one to interact with, no give and take of energy.

  • Anonymous

    While this is all true…the point is his experience. He got upset, understandably so. Emotions aren’t something you can control; they just happen.

  • Idle Primate

    I believe he was upset at sitting in a blank green room all by himself take after take trying to act as if he was in a crowded boisterous room interacting with people. Actors feed off of each other. Its a dynamic process. And he is the sort that puts everything into the job. It seems an understandable enough mini breakdown. This is not crying because of cgi effects. He was quite clear in his statement so I am not sure what the flippant and inaccurate reductionism was for? One can commit to something and it still be a trial to get through. You sound like a petulant child cross because everything isn’t just how you would like it to be. The ONLY reason he is doing the hobbit is for you.

  • Terence Ng

    I think his dissatisfaction was being in an ensemble cast where he didn’t actually act with anyone in it for long stretches of time. The X-Men Trilogy obviously had CGI, but he’s still interacting with each of the characters. The SE are just green screen. That’s a major difference between the fireballs being fake and your co-actors being fake.

  • Whatthefkk

    Huh? I don’t even plan to see the Hobbit because I am not very interested in the franchise as a whole. I may catch it on DVD, but that’s about as far as my interest goes. They said he had a tantrum. YOU said it was because he was alone, and the top comment is “Oh what a shame at the state of the industry,” and the article even blames “the overuse of green screen technology.” Was it because he was alone or because of the green screen? In any case, I don’t understand why you resorted to personal attacks. Take a hint from user Thae86, who gave a valid point without being a dick about it.

  • Whatthefkk

    That makes sense. In his age, he’s probably getting exhausted by acting in CGI films.

  • Whatthefkk

    Hopefully he was just having a bad day at work, like we all do.

  • Jill Pantozzi

    He was alone on a green screen set. He wouldn’t have to act alone if they didn’t require him to be on the green screen for those scenes because of the height difference.

  • Jack

    People are allowed break downs occasionally. It doesn’t matter if it’s your dream job or not stress gets to the best of us. I don’t blame him one bit.

  • Raymond W. Cole

    his outlook makes me not want to see this film

  • Jim Goff

    Did you even read the article?

  • GeekFurious

    Troll, troll, troll your boat…

  • Louis Gonzales

    Well, this made me cry. It would be like imagining your grandfather crying! :(

  • Idle Primate

    You aren’t into the hobbit other than following blogs and repeatedly commenting. Like your initial deliberate misread of the article, you now call it a tantrum. Classy. Real classy. And you wonder why someone might get stiff with you.

  • Timothy Tankersley

    Such a shame. They were able to have characters of different sizes in the Lord of the Rings without computer tricks. Why couldn’t they have done the same here?

  • Brian

    There were plenty of computer tricks in Lord of the Rings, but since the 4 hobbits and Gimli were the only short people, they were usually the ones acting alone. In this case, Gandalf’s the odd man out. And they’re still using those tricks where they can. There are photos of him on the Bag End set with the dwarves.

  • Whatthefkk

    I’m replying to you, you dumb dumb. And this blog isn’t exclusive to the Hobbit. Don’t be stupid.

  • Whatthefkk

    I don’t see how Ian McKellen taking some personal responsibility for being in this film – a film where I’m sure he knows what to expect as far as green screen and effects goes – is trolling. Oh well. I have a different and practical viewpoint so I MUST be trolling!

  • RodimusBen

    What he says is valid. Today’s much-vaunted special effects technology has taken away so much of the magic of filmmaking, and that from the perspective of a guy who just sits in his living room and takes it all in. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a guy who now has to act against cardboard standees in a green-screened room.

  • Jerilyn Nighy

    His quote was just a snippet taken out of context. He doesn’t sound so morose in this interview:

  • Lee Rowan

    Classically-trained actors don’t learn their craft playing ‘let’s pretend’ on green-screen. It’s a difficult job to begin with. And I have to ask – would you have posted this article if Sir Ian had been heterosexual?

  • Mike Pants

    The flipside is that in the days of the “magic of filmmaking,” special effects looked horrible. I’m not saying we’re at the pinnacle of effects now, but we’re light years beyond matte paintings and cardboard.