By Jeff Labrecque
Updated January 13, 2011 at 10:57 PM EST
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Pierre Vinet

Image Credit: Pierre VinetWould I have been crestfallen if Ian McKellen had passed on playing Gandalf in the upcoming Hobbit films? Well, yes, actually. Certainly because his performance, especially in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, was my favorite part of the entire trilogy, but also because his absence might have made his reflective and forthright blog posts about the subject unnecessary. Beginning his latest entry with “All I had to decide was what to do with the time that is given me,” he has the gift of writing in his own singular voice, as I can’t read his thoughts without hearing Sir Ian whispering them.

McKellen explained his thought-process before he committed to Middle-earth, and why the decision took as long as it did. But I was most intrigued when he touched on the subject of sequels: That they’re not necessarily as rewarding to an actor as their originals. Well, as Johnny Depp implies in this week’s EW, sequels can be just as fun and fulfilling (and, I’m sure, lucrative) as the original — if you truly love your character. McKellen also cast doubt on whether audiences even care when characters are re-cast in subsequent films, pointing to that fact that “Michael Gambon was not the first to play Dumbledore.” Well, yes, but Richard Harris’ departure, obviously, was a sad and simple fact of life, and the pain of his passing was only alleviated by Gambon’s own take on the wizened Hogwarts’ headmaster. All things being equal, I’d rather have Harris still counseling young Harry — no slight intended, Sir Michael — just as I’d be sorry to see anyone beside McKellen holding Gandalf’s staff.

How crucial was McKellen’s semi-inevitable involvement to your interest in The Hobbit? Is he only being modest when he questions whether we care when actors are replaced?

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Lord of the Rings

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