Shakespeare, Tolkien and You at the Q Part 1 1/2

So, as I was going to bed I was hit by another four things which stood out in the first half of the show, and thought I’d share them with you before going on to Part 2. My ravings tend to get a bit long, I’ve noticed, so maybe I’ll try to cut down on a few words of admiration this time…

  • Sir Ian described several occasions where he was acting alongside Judi Dench, elaborating on how other actors feel when there is a big ‘star’ on stage – like they’re trying to interrupt a one-to-one performance from the ‘star’ to the audience when delivering their lines – and was very generous with praise. He also told of his one big mess-up, which incidentally was also with Judi Dench; he was in the middle of a scene, when suddenly he remembered some really nasty things that he had overheard being said about his performance, and found he could no longer remember any of his lines. He simply turned his back on the audience, and when Judi lifted an inquiring eyebrow, he shot her a pleading look. Sir Ian then went on to say that to his eternal admiration, Judi kept going, saying both her lines and his, and that after the scene had finished and he had told her what had happened, she gave him a hug. This, he said, was his only major outbreak of stage fright, but he always felt tense before a show (as is normal).
  • When asked about filming LOTR and how he got the role of Gandalf, Sir Ian said that Sir Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh came to his house one day with some conceptual drawings, and that he didn’t believe that they could actually make them come to life, but that of course they did, and that he found the prospect interesting, and the atmosphere Sir  Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh gave off was so friendly that he decided to do it. He added that it often felt like they were filming “the most expensive home movie ever”. The first scene he filmed, Sir Ian said, was the first one where he entered Hobbiton on his cart, but that the next one, which was filmed the very next day, he was acting the very last scene of the third film, and he had to say a “fond farewell” to hobbits who’d been on “a long and incredible journey” with him, and he had to introduce himself to the actors and ask Sir Peter what he should do and how to react!
  • Something which both amused and annoyed Sir Ian after he had finished acting as Gandalf were his script offers. He said that he would get descriptions of “He looked like he was about a hundred years old”, or “he had a long white beard”, and even, on two instances, “He was God”.
  • Lastly, when Sir Ian was asked which he preferred, theatre or filming, he said that he always hesitated in saying theatre, perhaps because he knew that “in his heart” that was what he liked best. He went on to say that the two mediums were completely different, both in the way lines were learnt and scenes were acted, but also that when filming, the director was in control, bringing about their view of the text into being, whereas in theatre, the actors ultimately held that power, and that this was possibly why so many actors prefer theatre to film.

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