Lord of the Rings - Why David Bowie Didn't Play Gandalf

Lord of the Rings casting director Amy Hubbard reveals why David Bowie wasn't cast as the wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson's famed trilogy.

David Bowie Jareth

Undoubtedly one of the greatest losses the world had in 2016 was that of musician and actor David Bowie. Known for a variety of personas within his musical career such as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and the Thin White Duke, Bowie maintained a daring and genre-defying ability to meld art, acting and music together into one grand performance. As such, his transition into film early on in his career played out as a natural extension of his talents.

Bowie’s film roles remain iconic to this day, though it’s often the case that the popularity of his performances depend largely on a wide age demographic that came to know him throughout his extensive career. For some, he’ll always be the bizarre extra-terrestrial being Thomas Jerome Newton in 1976’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, while others will only ever think of him as the Goblin King Jareth in Jim Henson’s cult classic Labyrinth. But it was a potential role in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that could have been his most widely recognized effort.

According to an interview with Lord of the Rings casting director Amy Hubbard obtained by The Huffington Post, Peter Jackson had been interested in having David Bowie onboard the trilogy as Gandalf. However, contrary to popular rumors, Bowie did not audition – though he did meet with CAA agent Chris Andrews about potentially joining the cast. What ultimately prevented his joining the production was the huge commitment it necessitated. Bowie it seems, was simply too busy to take on the epic franchise. Said Amy Hubbard:

“He was unavailable. It was a very quick conversation with the legendary Chris Andrews at CAA. I do believe that [David Bowie] went over and played for everybody at the Millennium party. That would’ve been New Year’s Eve in the year 1999, which was when the films were being shot. He went over and entertained everybody, but he never auditioned. That’s for sure.”

And on Bowie specifically taking on the role of Gandalf, Hubbard had this to say:

"We approached him. I’m pretty sure it was Peter Jackson’s idea in the first few weeks that we got going. It was one that he’d always wondered about, and we rang Chris, and [Bowie] was far too busy.”

Gandalf (Ian McKellen)

Of course, today we attribute the role of Gandalf to Ian McKellen in performances that many consider to be career-defining. And yet, the idea of David Bowie having taken on the gargantuan role is a wonderful prospect for many – especially those who are still in love with his performance as the wicked Jareth. At the time that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was being filmed, Bowie would have been 52. McKellen was 60, but the age difference likely would have been negligible once costume and make up were added.

Obviously we’ll never know what a David Bowie Gandalf would have been like, but judging by Bowie’s immense talents and previous acting accomplishments, it’s a safe bet that it would have been nothing short of spectacular. This is isn’t a slight against McKellen’s performance, however. His Gandalf is the one that will always be remembered and revered. But for Bowie fans, this single opportunity that wasn’t to be will also always be remembered for what could’ve been.

Source: The Huffington Post

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