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When actors spend a significant amount of time on a movie set, they can really fall in love with the production. Often times, they’ll opt to steal a prop or piece of memorabilia from the set. This was true for Ian McKellen after he dedicated much of his life to the production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He stole a few items from The Hobbit series while he was on set. But what exactly did he swipe, and what was the item’s significance? 

Ian McKellen has had a legendary Hollywood career

Ian McKellen as Gandalf standing in the front with a pipe in his hand, with Elijah Wood as Frodo standing behind him.
Ian McKellen (L) as Gandalf with Elijah Wood as Frodo from ‘Lord of the Rings.’ | New Line/WireImage

McKellen has had an absolutely legendary career as an actor in Hollywood. According to IMDb, he’s been nominated for two Oscars and won “nearly every major theatrical award” one can win.

McKellen started his career as a respected stage actor before moving to film, a medium in which he’s excelled. While McKellen is best known to audiences for his role in both the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, he’s had plenty of others. 

As far as mainstream audiences go, they may also know him as Magneto, the nemesis of the X-Men. He first portrayed the character in 2000’s X-Men and has reprised it multiple times since. Fans have come to know and love his dignified, calm way of delivering lines no matter what kind of character he’s playing. McKellen is almost universally beloved as a performer. 

Who did Ian McKellen play in ‘Lord of the Rings’?

McKellen’s most iconic role has to be the one of Gandalf. He first played the character in the Lord of the Rings trilogy before also playing him in The Hobbit films.

Gandalf is the archetypal wise old mentor character. He’s an elderly wizard who’s both kind in heart yet intensely powerful. He seemingly perishes in The Fellowship of the Ring under his previous moniker of Gandalf the Grey only to return in The Two Towers as Gandalf the White. 

Gandalf is powerful but unable to carry Sauron’s ring to Mordor. Instead, he helps the forces of good as they unite to battle Sauron’s forces, helping the more modest hobbits in their quest to destroy the ring. 

The six films are very much ensemble pieces, but there’s no denying that McKellen was one of the crucial aspects of the film’s success. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the role of Gandalf. As much as any part of that cast, McKellen made the films smash hits. 

The stolen set memento Ian McKellen stole from ‘Lord of the Rings’


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McKellen, like the rest The Hobbit cast, spent a lot of time on set of the three films. To commemorate his time shooting the epic trilogy, he helped himself to a couple of pieces of memorabilia. 

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, McKellen said he stole the following items from the set: 

  • Gold coins found in the lair of the ferocious, fire-breathing dragon Smaug
  • The key to Bilbo Baggins’ Bag End home

McKellen admitted his deceit in a Reddit chat. His confession came after a question about his favorite set from the films: 

“And I think my favorite set, that I didn’t act in, was the golden Liar, where the dragon was hiding. Hundreds of thousands of golden coins, specially made.

And if you don’t tell anyone, I can tell you that I have some of those coins….

…Along with the font door key to Bag End, which i know Peter Jackson is looking for, but will never find.”

The keys to Bilbo’s house were particularly significant, as they unlocked the domicile that served as the starting point for both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies. It’s unclear whether Jackson has ever confronted McKellen about the thievery, but it’s doubtful. After his amazing performance as Gandalf, it’s hard to imagine any director having an issue with McKellen helping himself with a little something to remember the experience by.