The idea of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth mythology being revived as an Amazon television series is enough to get any fan of the books and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies excited. However, Sir Ian McKellen just provided what may be the icing on that cake with hints that his legendary onscreen role as wizard Gandalf may continue in some capacity on said series.
In a recent BBC radio interview with Graham Norton, McKellen was asked about the possibility of being replaced in his iconic role; an understandable query, seeing as the legendary knighted actor is 78 years old. However, the question, posed as speculation about “there being another Gandalf in town,” was answered in intriguing fashion. Answered McKellen:
“What do you mean another Gandalf?” Adding, “I haven’t said yes because I haven’t been asked, but are you suggesting someone else is going to play it? Who would be suitable?”
Of course, McKellen is also known as a cheeky fellow and was likely speaking in a comedic context appropriate to host Graham Norton. However, the notion of McKellen reprising the role, presumably around the 80-year-old mark, is not as unrealistic as one may think, considering the nature of the character. As McKellen reminds us:
“Gandalf is over 7,000 years old, so I’m not too old.”
Indeed, McKellen was not being facetious with that comment. Gandalf may carry the corporeal façade of an elderly, grey-bearded beggar, but he – like the other wizards (or Istari) of Middle Earth – is a celestial spirit called a Maiar (akin to a mid-level angel), sent to Middle Earth from the Undying Lands in the beginning of the Third Age to aid its peoples against the surging threat of Sauron (also once a Maiar,) and the Ring of Power, always in the form of a sagely elder.
Consequently, that leaves plenty of possibilities for Gandalf – specifically McKellen’s version – to return on the Amazon series, notably with a storyline depicting the arrival of the five wizards (Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey, Radagast the Brown and Blue Wizards Alatar and Pallando,) on Middle Earth.
When considering the fact that Amazon’s $250 million deal to acquire the rights to the Tolkien property involves a multi-season commitment with the era-spanning nature of the author’s Middle Earth stories outside of the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels, notably in chronicle The Silmarillion, it suggests an anthological nature to the series; something that makes the idea of McKellen’s return as Gandalf for one specific iteration of the series into something that’s a lot more than feasible.
Of course, Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series (for lack of a more accurate title,) is still in its earliest of planning stages. As for McKellen, his backlog is dominated by an upcoming modernized version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, titled Hamlet Revenant, a film in which he will appear opposite Gabriel Byrne and Connie Nielsen, with Danish actor Mikkel Boe Følsgaard playing the titular revenge-plotting prince.