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Sir Ian McKellen reveals 20-year-old diary entries from filming Lord of the Rings

Sir Ian Mckellen, 80, has revealed diary entries he wrote during the making of The Lord of the Rings.

Sir Ian McKellen. Source: Associated Press

Just over 20 years ago, he arrived on New Zealand shores to begin filming the first of three epic fantasies based on the novel written by J. R R. Tolkien.

"I joined the cast on January 10, 2000. During that time, I kept a journal, which today would be called a blog," he wrote on Twitter yesterday.

"Perhaps you'll enjoy reading about those heady times."

His entries reveal his fond expectations of working with director Peter Jackson and coming to New Zealand to play the part of the wizard Gandalf.

“If it weren't the director of Heavenly Creatures in control, with a strong vision of all those precise, quirky, majestic locations, I should not much look forward to a full year away from my home in London. But Peter Jackson's designs, script and his unshowy dedication to the task are irresistible. Had I been unable to play Gandalf (because of an encroaching X-Men schedule), I should have hoped for another less time-consuming part later in the trilogy," he wrote in August, 1999.

“I am aware of the high expectations of Tolkien's fans - like myself. But, never having imagined that I would ever play any sort of wizard, I am ill-prepared. I just worked with a witch, however, a white one, whose spells are formidable. Her energy is impressive. I shall have to come to understand the nature of Gandalf's energy - what keeps him going. What keeps any of us going?"

In November 2001, he reflected on the artistry created for the film by visual effects company, WETA Digital.

"Everything on screen honours Tolkien's imagination and cinematically matches it. The achievement of WETA's special effects is that they are not evident, seemingly as actual as the New Zealand landscapes which double for Middle-earth.

"The designs of make-up, costume and varying sizes (from hobbits to elves) do not draw attention themselves - they simply belong within a world that never existed which is yet fully alive."

He also referenced his experience of watching a Māori haka.

"Everyone was talking about Bernard Hill's final day of shooting, where a special reel of his high moments in the film (bloopers and all) had gone down very well," he wrote in a 2003 entry.

"Each of the actors get a turn - yesterday Miranda Otto left with her own film, her sword and other gifts plus a welcoming haka, the Māori ritual reenacted by the shirtless stunt department.

"Last night it was also performed before the All Blacks/England rugby match which I watched in an open-air bar. Tourists note: even in high winter there are sunny and warm days in the Land of the Long White Cloud."