Ian McKellen broke down into tears whilst filming The Hobbit and called the experience ‘miserable’ after a green screen fiasco.

The Lord of the Rings franchise returned to the big screen in 2012 with a movie adaptation of The Hobbit; however, actor Ian McKellen felt “miserable” whilst filming his sequences away from his co-stars on a green screen stage.

Gandalf LOTR
Image from The Return of the King / The Lord of the Rings 4K Ultra HD / Warner Bros. Entertainment

How filming The Hobbit made Ian McKellen cry in frustration

In Peter Jackson’s original The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, the infamous scale illusion was achieved by placing the actors playing human/elf characters either closer or farther away from the camera than the Hobbit/dwarf characters.

However, green screen technology had been significantly advanced by the time that Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy went into production, resulting in Ian McKellen having to perform his part away from the rest of his co-stars.

This, as it turns out, was one of the toughest periods for McKellen’s outstanding acting career to date; resulting in him breaking down into tears on set and even claiming that ‘This is not why I became an actor’ to Jackson himself.

In an interview with Times Out promoting his documentary ‘Playing the Part, McKellen admitted that he was “miserable” whilst filming his green screen sequences. Elaborating in a follow-up interview with Contact Music, the award-winning actor explained how “in order to shoot the dwarves and a large Gandalf, we couldn’t be in the same set.”

“All I had for company was 13 photographs of the dwarves on top of stands with little lights – whoever’s talking flashes up. Pretending you’re with 13 other people when you’re on your own, it stretches your technical ability to the absolute limits.”

McKellen then admitted that: “I cried, actually. I cried. Then I said out loud, ‘This is not why I became an actor’. Unfortunately, the microphone was on and the whole studio heard.”

Thankfully, his co-stars knew of the issues with acting via green screen after such an incredible career and made it their goal to cheer up McKellen by sneaking into his personal tent and decorating it with mementos and props from The Lord of the Rings.

“I was made to feel, as so often happens when you’re working with Peter Jackson and his colleagues, that you belong and you’re to feel at ease and at home and happy,” he acknowledged.

Jackson too used his sense of humor to help cheer up McKellen during this tough period with USA Today reporting that the veteran director explained:

I think Ian was happy to play Gandalf. He would rather see himself as Gandalf on-screen than John Hurt. Whenever he was tired or grumpy, I used to joke with him that John Hurt is in a hotel down the road and can be called on set anytime.”

Interestingly, neither any of the three Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies are Ian McKellen’s highest-earning movie to date: that honor goes to Beauty and the Beast, which earned $1.26 billion at the global box office, around $147 million more than The Return of the King.

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