Ian McKellen probably never expected the odd turn that his career has taken over the last fifteen years, but he seems to have embraced it with grace and gusto.
I'm sure if you'd told him before all of this that he would end up beloved by an audience of fantasy-loving comic-book-reading genre fans all over the world, he would have dismissed the idea as silly. Even when he appeared in "Gods and Monsters," the sensational James Whale biopic by Bill Condon, he probably never expected the particular way that his audience would expand.
Now here we are, sitting down with him to discuss his return to Middle Earth, and I love that he sees a distinct difference between playing Gandalf the White and Gandalf the Grey. Like McKellen, I prefer Gandalf the Grey, and one of the nicest things about "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is getting my favorite version of my favorite wizard back in action. He brings such warmth and humor to the part that it was sad to see him changed into more of an action hero on the final film.
He doesn't seem quite as sure of his return to the world of "X-Men" as Bryan Singer was recently when tweeting about it. Singer said flat out that both Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were signed, but my conversation with McKellen made it sound like something that they would like to see happen, but that is by no means a done deal.
I love the way he seems very matter-of-fact about the odd collision of timing and events and availability that led to him becoming both Magneto and Gandalf in the space of a very short time. And while we chatted for a moment after the cameras were turned off, I told him that more than anything else, I want to see him work with Condon again.
"Then I shall tell you, since you asked, that Bill and I have spoken, and we will be working together again." I'm not sure if that's for the Wikileaks film that Condon is set to make next or if it's for something else, but that is genuinely exciting news.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" will be in theaters this Friday.