‘Lord of the Rings’: Gandalf’s Famous Line Was Different In the Book

J.R.R. Tolkien fans today may take it for granted that there is a live-action movie trilogy of The Lord of the Rings. For over 50 years, it seemed impossible to imagine the stories come to life until the 2001-2003 trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and the Oscar-winning Return of the King. Now, some of the movie’s famous lines have usurped Tolkien’s own words, two spoken by Gandalf (Ian McKellan). 

Gandalf in Lord of the Rings
Ian McKellan and Elijah Wood | New Line/WireImage

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Josh Gad had the cast and filmmakers of Lord of the Rings on the fourth episode of his show Reunited Apart. Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Andy Serkis, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Bean, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Liv Tyler, composer Howard Shore and together Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson spoke with Gad to raise money for No Kid Hungry. They spoke for an epic 50 minutes, but here’s the story of Gandalf’s iconic line.

Even three J.R.R. Tolkien books weren’t enough for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movies

The Lord of the Rings were three books Tolkien wrote. The screenplays Boyens, Jackson and Fran Walsh wrote turned into three epic movies, but any movie based on a book is an adaptation. Sometimes Boyens would have to write original dialogue in the style of Tolkien.

L-R: Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

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“I’m a good mimic,” Boyens said. “You know what I have to say. Exposition is just a killer. All of these brilliant actors, every now and then we’d get this really tricky exposition. Fran and I would just look at each other like, ‘It’s fine, Ian will get it off the page.’”

Even Peter Jackson doesn’t know what’s Tolkien and what’s them

Jackson lived with Lord of the Rings for years. Then he went back to Middle Earth for the Hobbit trilogy. At this point, he doesn’t remember what came from Tolkien and what he and his co-writers invented.

Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson | L. Cohen/WireImage

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“I have no memory of what Tolkien wrote vs. what we wrote,” Jackson said. “Occasionally I’m with these guys and I might say, ‘God, that Tolkien line was so great.’ Then I’d get a little voice of Philippa saying, ‘I wrote that.’”

One simple word made Gandalf’s line the catch phrase of ‘Lord of the Rings’

In the Mines of Moria, Gandalf (McKellan) protects the Fellowship of the Ring from the Balrog. He chants, “You shall not pass” as he slams his staff on the stone. “You shall not pass” became one of the film’s most memorable lines, and it’s exclusive to McKellan’s rendition.

“Gandalf doesn’t say ‘You shall not pass in the book,’” McKellan said. “He says, ‘You cannot pass.’”

Ian McKellen | New Line/WireImage

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Actually, that’s not quite right either. Boyens corrected McKellan.

“He says. ‘You will not pass,'” Boyens said.

Another memorable Gandalf line was Boyens’ invention too.

“One of the first things I ever wrote for Fran and Pete, and I think it’s why you offered me the job, is ‘A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he needs to,’” Boyens said.