Ian McKellen talks 'The Hobbit,' fundraising efforts in New Zealand after earthquake
Sir Ian McKellen didn't just spend his time in New Zealand last year filming his role as Gandalf the wizard in Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" trilogy.
In the summer of 2011, the 73-year-old actor performed 15 one-man stage shows across the country and raised $354,000 in funds to help restore the Isaac Theatre Royal in the city of Christchurch, which was damaged the previous February in a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 180 people.
And he had a personal connection to the survivors of the disaster as well -- his "Hobbit" co-star, Mark Hadlow, who plays a dwarf named Dori and a troll named Bert.
"Devastating," McKellen told OTRC.com. "Mark Hadlow, one of the dwarves lived in Christchurch. Can't live there anymore. His wife can't face it. I ended up, [during] my time there doing a show, a one-man show around New Zealand to raise money for people and the theatre that had been damaged in the earthquake."
About half of the cast members are from New Zealand, McKellen added. "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which has grossed more than 1.03 billion and serves as the sequel series to "The Hobbit," was also filmed in the country, known for its breathtaking landscapes made up of lush, green, hillsides, snowy mountains and sprawling lakes.
In "The Hobbit" films, Martin Freeman the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the uncle of Frodo Baggins from "Lord of the Rings." The first installment in the trilogy, "The Unexpected Journey," sees Bilbo embark on a dangerous journey across Middle Earth with the help of Gandalf and a large group of dwarves to find treasure guarded by a dragon, Smaug.
Jackson and his team used cutting-edge technology in the filming process, not just during post-production, to perfect the 3D special effects. Many of the cast members -- including Martin, whose character has furry feet -- wore elaborate costumes and prosthetics.
"Everybody in 'Lord of the Rings,' everybody in The Hobbit wears a wig," McKellen told OTRC.com "That's a little known facts but it's unusual in the film. Everybody wears a wig. Most of us wear a prosthetic and I've got a false nose. Bilbo's got false feet. The dwarves have got a false hat and false hands and false legs."
But the characters' weariness from their journeys was all real.
"When they were all done up with their disguises, which would take three or four hours to put on, and then they were carrying great weights on their back during the journeys, I've seen them at the end of the takes just literally fall back and lean against a tree or fall onto the ground and have to recover their energies," McKellen told OTRC.com.
"These are fit actors and they went to do real training for it," he said, adding: "And me, I'm just in a loose gown and a pair of comfortable boots and makeup that only takes about 40 minutes to put on."
"The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey" was released on Friday, December 14. As of that afternoon, it has already made at least $40 million worldwide, the Los Angeles Times reported, adding that this includes $27.3 million overseas and $13 million from midnight screenings in the United States and CanadaReporting by George Pennacchio of KABC Television, which produces the entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).