D: You went straight from filming X-Men in Canada to Lord of the Rings in New Zealand. Ever get homesick?
Sir Ian: I am used to working away from home. Having just discovered e-mail though, I have kept in touch with friends and family much more than usual. Travel is the main perk of filming and currently in New Zealand I am overwhelmed by the spectacular mountains, water, glaciers and rainforests.
D: Almost 1.7 million people downloaded the LOTR trailer in the first 24 hours. Is it quite daunting when you sit back and think about how big these movies actually are?
Sir Ian: 6.6 million in the first week! All I can be concerned with is working at full stretch and helping achieve Peter Jackson's vision. It will then be up to the public (many of whom may not yet be Tolkien fans) to decide how good the movie trilogy is. Meanwhile Lord of the Rings is the biggest film project ever, technically and logistically. Yesterday the location caterers fed 850 crew, cast and extras on the lava field of Mount Ruapehu, which last exploded in 1997.
D: Over the years many actors have been linked to the role of Gandalf, but your casting took people by surprise. Were you interested in the role beforehand or was the first time you considered the part when Peter Jackson approached you?
Sir Ian: I knew nothing of the film until Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh confided their plans and some designs when they visited London last year.
D: Certain people seem to want to pit the Lord of the Rings movies against the Star Wars movies as though there's only room in cinema for one epic fantasy/sci-fi saga. Do you see the movie you're currently working on in competition with Lucas's creations?
Sir Ian: Films that open close together compete for the same audience perhaps. Otherwise they ignore each other. It's only the Oscars which make it look as if we are in competition.
D: What's it like, having spent months in front of a blue (or green) screen when you finally get to see the environments the special effects guys have placed you in?
Sir Ian: The special effects haven't been added yet. Working in front of a screen doesn't worry me - after all I am facing the camera not the missing scenery.
D: Thanks to your website you seem to make yourself more available to the public than most actors do. Was this the initial intention or did it just work out that way?
Sir Ian: My intention was to avoid the offers to write an autobiography by cataloguing my career in a way that it could be more fully accessed than any book. The Grey Book and Magneto's Lair were in response to e-mail, which I also answer in my E-Post letters.