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Sir Ian McKellen Originally Had To Choose Between Magneto And Gandalf

The World May Never Know

You’ve heard of “Sophie’s Choice,” right? Well I think we’re going to have to start a new geek phrase – “McKellen’s Choice.” Sir Ian McKellen, actor with an impressive resume but best known to fans as Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings and Magneto from X-Men, recently revealed that at one point, it was one role or the other, not both.

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The New Zealand Herald says the big reveal comes thanks to the Lord of the Rings 10-year anniversary special in the December edition of Empire magazine. McKellen admitted that he initially turned down director Peter Jackson’s offer even though he knew playing Gandalf was “the role of a lifetime.”

“At the time I was about to play Magneto in the X-Men film in Toronto,” he told Empire. “I was already committed to that…and it meant I couldn’t get to New Zealand in time. So I had to tell Peter I could no longer do Gandalf.”

A simple schedule conflict could have cost us our wonderful Gandalf but it didn’t thanks to a chance meeting at a restaurant in London with New Line Cinema executive Bob Shaye. McKellen related the story, “He said, ‘I hear you’re going to be in our movie.’ And I said, ‘Oh, not anymore.’ And he said, ‘What’s the problem?’ And I explained. “He just said, ‘Leave that to me.'”

“That was the best thing he ever did for me, beacuse they worked out they could do without me for the first three months,” he said, “that is what I remember of the beginning of it – how I very nearly didn’t play Gandalf!” Thank you Bob Shaye, thank you from the bottom of my fantasy reading heart.

I can’t even begin to imagine what would have happened had McKellen not played Gandalf, he IS Gandalf. Not to mention, I’m extremely surprised he would have chosen Magneto over him but then again that could have had more to do with contracts already having been signed for X-Men than anything else. Regardless, all is well and we get to see McKellen reprise his role as the wizard with the lovely locks in The Hobbit next year.

(via Blastr)

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Jill Pantozzi
Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."

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