It’s been mentioned in the past, but it still bears repeating that the late Sean Connery could have stood to make millions from taking on the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but he turned it down as many people know. One has to wonder why such a celebrated actor would say no to a role that could have only helped to elevate him in another manner, but as it’s been stated in a few cases, he had a pretty decent reason, for him at least. While others might not fully understand this, he didn’t fully understand the role, and this was after reading the story and the script. It wasn’t a lack of intelligence that kept him from understanding since Connery was an intelligent man, but he simply couldn’t see himself taking up the role of Gandalf since he didn’t know how he would go about doing this. That’s fair really, and it was likely the best decision for Connery since when looking at his past movies he took on a lot of roles that differed in a lot of ways. But one thing he never really could be called was a sage, someone that didn’t just rush into things full-throttle when action was needed. Even the character James Bond was more action than anything, which means that Connery might not have fully understood how to play Gandalf and therefore did the wise thing in his estimation and said no.
Anyone thinking that this was a mistake, and there are quite a few, might want to take a step back and realize that Connery was a guy that enjoyed getting into the action when it came time to do so. Gandalf is a character that could get into the action, but he’s no Ramirez from Highlander or even Malone from The Untouchables. While both of those characters had their quiet times in which they would talk more than act, they were also up close and personal fighters, which is where Connery has been for a lot of his career. It’s very possible that he could have played a convincing Gandalf since if he had taken the role he would have done his absolute best, but turning it down was likely for the best since Ian McKellen brought the role to life in a manner that many upon many people enjoyed. Thinking about how Connery might have played this role is interesting, but it’s very likely that it might not come off as well, for the reason listed above and largely because while both Connery and McKellen have shown the ability in the past to be the most prominent actors on the screen, McKellen was likely going to be the best one between the two when it came to simply sitting back and letting things happen. Ian has definitely shown his ability to act and get into the action, but as a type of sage, he’s definitely more suited than Connery was.
The character of Gandalf has for a long time been one that a lot of people would agree is not a typical fighter, but is more of a traveler, a trickster, and someone that has power but chooses not to use it unless it happens to be necessary. That didn’t always appear to suit any character that Connery played, since he could be calm and quiet, but when it came to action he was on top of it. Gandalf is that way as well, but perhaps it’s a patience factor and the simple demeanor that didn’t feel right with Connery. Whatever it was, and whatever reason he was asked to commit to the role, it’s considered to be a boon that he didn’t. It’s likely that Gandalf would have been far more gruff than he was in the trilogy, perhaps to the point that he would come off as more of a cranky old man than a wise and patient wizard. It’s hard to say really since it didn’t happen, but many people would feel the need to chime in, and there’s nothing to be taken away from Connery for the refusal either since the man knew what he wanted to do and what he didn’t. He made a stellar career on the characters that he did help to create and was someone that could turn down a role without suffering too much for it, especially since he was already a legend and didn’t need any further vindication in this manner. This was Sean Connery after all, a man that had seen it and done it and been there a time or two, so thinking that he could say no and be just fine was kind of par for the course.
It’s still bound to stick with a lot of people though, the idea of that ‘what if’, and how it might have worked.