Ian McKellen on filming The Hobbit: 'I had no idea what I was doing'

The actor said he didn't fully understand the plot of The Battle of the Five Armies until he watched the movie

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

As Gandalf the Grey, he is known for his wisdom – but Ian McKellen said he had “no idea” what was going on when he was filming the last installment of The Hobbit.

The British actor, who also played the wizard in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, said that details of the plot eluded him while he was in the thick of the action.

“The best thing about having now seen the movie is understanding the plot – I had no idea what I was doing during filming,” he told talk show host Graham Norton.

He said the lengthy battle scenes in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies were “amazing, but don’t ask me any more about how it is done as I don’t really understand it.”

The final part of Peter Jackson’s trilogy culminates in a 45-minute conflict, which is played out at the bottom of the Lonely Mountain and sees a number of armies fighting for their right to the treasure of Erebor.


McKellen said that bringing JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth to life in this way was a combination of exhilaration and tedium.

“Some of it was really exciting like filming on a mountain top.  But filming with a green screen is the miserable part,” he said.

“At the end of the first day, I shed a tear and with my head in my hand said, ‘This is not why I became an actor,’ forgetting the mikes were still on!”

However, the actor expressed his pride about taking part in the films, saying how “moving" it was to see young people camping outside in the streets ahead of the London premiere on 1 December. 

“These people were not born when we started making Lord of the Rings and it’s a big part of their lives.  It’s not the end for them because they will now be able to see all six films and show them to their kids. We’ve made classics and that’s lovely.”

McKellen appears on The Graham Norton Show alongside Batman star Michael Keaton, comedienne Victoria Wood, chef Jamie Oliver and boy band One Direction tonight at 10.35pm on BBC One.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is scheduled for release in the UK on 12 December.