"You shall not pass!" If you've ever wanted to hear the great Sir Ian McKellen utter those words in person, now's your chance… as long as you live in the U.K., that is. This Wednesday, London's Park Theatre announced that Ian McKellen will reprise his role as Gandalf — along with some of the revered actor's other greatest roles — in a one-man show titled Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You. For those of us who can't afford the trip to the West End, we'll just have to live with re-watching McKellen's classic portrayal of Gandalf across six films that span 13 years. But the fact that the Oscar-nominated actor is open to revisiting his most iconic role begs the question: Will McKellen ever play Gandalf onscreen again?
Running for one week only in July of this year, the play (the proceeds of which will go to charity) will feature encores of "some of [McKellen's] renowned performances, from Gandalf to Macbeth," according to the Park Theatre's official website. "Audiences will have opportunities to ask questions and participate in the performance, as well as hearing Sir Ian discuss his work with other notable actors and directors. An intimate and unforgettable evening with one of the world’s finest actors."
That's nice. But what about the movies? Given that both of Tolkien's most well-known novels have already been adapted to the screen, it seems like the answer should obviously be no. But, though most casual fans may only know of The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, more hardcore Tolkien nerds know that there's plenty more Middle Earth lore out there that could be adapted — most significantly, The Silmarillion.
That book, while technically a prequel to The Hobbit that tells the story of the creation and early history of Middle Earth, was actually published four decades after that family-friendly romp, and after Tolkien himself had passed away — and it often reads more like a textbook or encyclopedia than a cohesive, plot-driven novel. Still, readers devoted to Tolkien's work have long speculated about how the incredibly dense Silmarillion might be adapted to the screen.
Granted, Gandalf himself appears only fleetingly in that book — and even then only under his Maiar name of Olórin — but, if Peter Jackson could turn Tolkien's slimmest novel into a nearly nine-hour trilogy, then surely Gandalf's role in any Silmarillion adaptation could be expanded. Also, the character features heavily in some of Tolkien's Unfinished Tales (especially one that details the origins of the wizards), so there's other source material to draw on as well.
So when will a studio turn these books into movies? At 77, McKellen certainly isn't getting any younger; if we want to see him play Gandalf again, someone should get started on that adaptation STAT. Unfortunately, there's one pretty major hiccup: the Tolkien estate has no interest in letting anyone make any more movies out of the author's works.
As reported by CinemaBlend, Warner Bros. and the Tolkien estate (represented by his son, Christopher Tolkien) came into conflict over contract disputes during production of the first two trilogies, resulting in the fact that the estate now refuses to sell the rights to any of the rest of the Middle Earth novels. Those who consider The Silmarillion to be unadaptable can now rest in peace, as it seems unlikely that it ever will be filmed.
If you want to see McKellen play Gandalf one more time, it seems like your best bet might be to book a plane ticket to London for this summer. If you can't, and find yourself bitterly wishing that none of this had happened, just remember Gandalf's wise words: "So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." With my time, I choose to marathon all six Middle Earth movies. Again.