The reason why Ian McKellen almost didn’t play Gandalf OR Magneto

Sometimes it’s impossible to divorce certain actors from some of their most iconic roles in our minds. How would it look if a different actor had played Gandalf the Grey in the Lord of the Rings films, or supervillain mutant Magneto in the X-Men movies? Luckily, we’ll never have to know.

In a recent interview with People magazine, actor Sir Ian McKellen revealed that it actually came down to a pretty significant yes-or-no decision that inevitably contributed to him being available to star in both popular franchises.

According to McKellen, he received a script for Mission: Impossible II that was actually pretty limited — they didn’t want him to leak any spoilers, so they only sent him the scenes he was in! And McKellen didn’t know if he wanted to be in the film based on a seriously redacted script, so he decided to politely decline the project.

“Well, I couldn’t judge from reading just those scenes what the script was like. So I said no,” McKellen said. “And my agent said, ‘You can’t say no to working with Tom Cruise!’ and I said, ‘I think I will.’

“The next day, Bryan Singer asked me to play Magneto and then Peter Jackson asked me to play Gandalf, and I said yes to both.”

The 76-year-old actor has had an extremely prolific career (checking out his Wikipedia filmography page is pretty overwhelming!) but it’s safe to say Gandalf and Magneto are among his most popular roles. He’s played Magneto in five different X-Men movies (including an uncredited cameo in The Wolverine) and appeared on screen as Gandalf in six separate Lord of the Rings movies.

In the words of Gandalf himself, “A wizard arrives precisely when he means to.” Sounds like the exact same thing can be said for Sir Ian McKellen.

[Featured image via 20th Century Fox.]


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