Here's why Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings

Sean Connery in The Rock
(Image credit: Buena Vista/Walt Disney)

While Sean Connery may have had many memorable role, the actor also rejected more than a handful of now-iconic parts. Perhaps most famously, Connery – who died at the age of 90 – turned down the part of Gandalf in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Connery was the director's first choice for the role, which would have seen the actor travel to New Zealand to portray the wizard. The producers of the fantasy series were so desperate to get Connery on board that they offered him upwards of $30 million, plus 15 per cent of the box-office takings. Yet, the former James Bond didn't budge, and Ian McKellen went on to become Gandalf. 

Years later, Connery discussed the Lord of the Rings, revealing that he simply didn't understand the series. "I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don't understand it," he said, according to the New Zealand Herald. Connery added: "Ian McKellen, I believe, is marvellous in it."

The Lord of the Rings trilogy went on to net a reported $2.981 billion at the global box-office. Now, 15 per cent of that figure is $447 million. That's one comfortable retirement fund! Still, Connery seemingly had no regrets, and went on to star in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, his final on-screen role. Meanwhile, McKellen – who's nine years younger than Connery – returned as Gandalf in the Hobbit trilogy.

Connery's other famous rejected roles included playing John Hammond in Jurassic Park, The Architect in The Matrix (again, he reportedly didn't understand the script), and Sybock in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Connery's presence was still felt in that Star Trek movie, as the alien words "Sha Ka Ree" are a play on his name.

Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.