“He was like seven foot and we’d be on our knees”: Lord of the Rings Has an Ian McKellen Secret – There Were 2 Actors Playing Gandalf

Peter Jackson may be the master auteur who brought Middle-earth alive on screen but the effort he put into his trilogy proves why he's the GOAT

ian mckellen in lord of the rings


  • Lord of the Rings trilogy faces impossible hurdles for use of practical and visual effects to make scenes more realistic.
  • Peter Jackson devises unusual trickery with actors and lighting to portray the differences among Elves, hobbits, and humans.
  • Lord of the Rings franchise looks to get a complete reboot at Warner Bros. Discovery under David Zaslav's order.
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Lord of the Rings has shaped many a child’s life almost a century apart. Be it J. R. R. Tolkien’s literary series in the 1930s or Peter Jackson’s trilogies in the 2000s, the franchise has brought the world of epic high fantasy tales involving Elves, hobbits, kings, and wizards just a little bit closer to our fingertips.

Lord of the Rings Return of the King [Credit New Line Cinema]
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King [Credit: New Line Cinema]

However, while the audience and critics have been in love with Peter Jackson’s masterpiece, the filmmaker has been slaving away in his studio to come up with ways to make the world seem more realistic on screen, rather than a CGI-infested botched job. Sir Ian McKellen then gladly served himself up as the victim of the director’s experimentation.

Ian McKellen Spills the Beans on His Gandalf Double

Sir Ian McKellen is known for many achievements and perhaps most of all, his mastery lies over Shakespearean theater. But even more iconic are his roles as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings series and Magneto in Fox’s X-Men franchise. Although the actor was particularly excited to put on his helmet and lift the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge right out of the water, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings had an even more tantalizing premise for him.

Peter Jackson on Lord of the Rings set with Sir Ian McKellen [Credit Warner Bros.]
Peter Jackson on Lord of the Rings set with Sir Ian McKellen [Credit: Warner Bros.]

In a 2021 oral history retelling with The Independent, McKellen revealed the trouble of working with hobbits, Elves, and humans in tandem and how Peter Jackson’s trickery with the camera was the only thing that could unite these three factions without looking disproportionately scaled with bad CGI.

“I never really got over having to work with scale. I’d be standing on a box or Elijah [Wood] would be on his knees. If we had a two-shot I couldn’t look into his eyes and vice versa. I had to look at his midriff and he’d be looking at the tip of my pointy hat. The scale doubles were a large part of it too. They found a very large policeman called Tall Paul to double me.”

Lord of the Rings franchise set to be revived by WB
Sir Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood in Lord of the Rings [Credit: New Line Cinema]

The experience was equally disconcerting for the hobbit actors, and Dominic Monaghan, who plays the part of Merry Brandybuck revealed:

“Tall Paul was often our Gandalf. He was like seven foot and we’d be on our knees. Ian would still be on set, unless it was just a walking shot. It was never just a day with the double, Ian was always there and we were always with Ian.”

Paul Randall aka Tall Paul was revealed to be a 7’1” actor from New Zealand with a handful of acting credits who found his big break in fellow Kiwi filmmaker, Peter Jackson’s franchise. Over the span of the legendary films, Randall served as a body double for Legolas, Aragorn, and Boromir for their scenes with the hobbits.


The Legacy of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Rings of Power formulates a poignant prequel to the Tolkienverse trilogy
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power [Credit: Amazon Studios]

Those who were born shortly before the turn of the new century are perhaps some of the luckiest people in the history of human evolution. The world of entertainment has rapidly progressed in the 21st century, bringing us such master auteurs like Peter Jackson, Christopher Nolan, Denis Villeneuve, and Greta Gerwig, and their respective masterpieces.

However, among most of the filmmakers of the era, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings was the formative franchise that accompanied fans well into their adulthood, spawning spin-offs and prequels that last to this day. The epic high-fantasy film series was not merely magical in its arc but a truly otherworldly experience that can never be replicated for the fans.

Now, the franchise’s spin-off, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has been streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Set thousands of years before the events of Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit, the Amazon series focuses on the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history and brings the story of Sauron and the history of the ring into the light.


Moreover, Warner Bros. Discovery is in talks to revive the Lord of the Rings franchise (alongside other treasures such as Harry Potter) in a complete reboot. Meanwhile, Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is set to premiere its second season in late 2024 on the streamer.

Lord of the Rings films are available for streaming on Max.


Written by Diya Majumdar

Articles Published: 1620

With a degree in Literature from Miranda House, Diya Majumdar now has over 1600 published articles on FandomWire. Her passion and profession both include dissecting the world of cinema while being a liberally opinionated person with an overbearing love for music, Monet, and Van Gogh.