There's One Lord Of The Rings Prop Peter Jackson Will Never Find (Because Ian McKellen Took It)

It's possible, if not probable, that we'll simply never get a cinematic trilogy the likes of "The Lord of the Rings" ever again. Even the most ardent and skeptical J.R.R. Tolkien scholar at the time couldn't have turned their nose up at the vast amount of resources and attention to detail paid to every aspect of the production back in the late 1990s. From concept artist extraordinaire John Howe to composer Howard Shore to costume designer and special effects wiz Richard Taylor to — oh yeah — that incredible ensemble cast, director Peter Jackson and the rest of the creative team went out of their way to recruit the absolute best and brightest talent in every facet of moviemaking to help make the definitive live-action adaptation of the beloved Middle-earth novels. Though the most vocal purists likely wouldn't be satisfied with any adaptation (stay tuned to find out how the consensus opinion of Amazon's "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" series turns out), the sweat, blood, tears, and passion that went into the creation of each set, visual effect, costume, makeup and prosthetic, and anything else you could possibly think of in both "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" is nothing short of staggering.

Almost two decades of history to look back on in retrospect makes it easy — though no less overwhelming — to appreciate the impossibly hard work that went into the sprawling production. Yet with so many moving parts and various elements to keep track of, however, it's understandable that a few minor details happened to slip past anyone's notice. It's hardly unusual for actors to end up taking souvenirs from the set of certain movies as mementos and keepsakes of the time and effort they poured into the production, which they'll be able to look back on and treasure for the rest of their lives. After all, it's tough to beat how Viggo Mortensen famously adopted the horse that he rode in character as Aragorn during filming (though not entirely without risking life and limb).

But of all the various trinkets that made their way into the hands of those involved in bringing both Middle-earth trilogies to life, the story of Gandalf himself, Sir Ian McKellan, absconding with a certain prop (or props, we should say) is well worth recounting. Trust us!

Who's the real burglar, anyway?

In both "The Lord of the Rings" movies and "The Hobbit" trilogy, Ian McKellan's wizard Gandalf is portrayed as wise, dignified, and an immensely powerful figure (if a little short-tempered). Much of those same attributes would easily apply to Ian McKellan as well (though based on his public persona, we have a hard time believing anything negative about his temperament), but with the addition of a very endearing sense of playfulness. This came into play when it came time to pick through the spoils of what to take home with him after filming both Middle-earth trilogies. That's no supposition on our part, mind you. This comes straight from the mouth (er, typing fingers?) of McKellan himself! It was revealed during a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything, via Looper), itself a time-honored and proven source of off-the-cuff anecdotes and revelations from countless actors in the past. 

This one proved to be no exception, with the legendary actor shedding some light on how he did his best Bilbo Baggins, Burglar Extraordinaire impression and sneakily pilfered some choice items from one of director Peter Jackson's sets. First (and most harmlessly enough), McKellan copped to the fact that he couldn't resist making off with a couple of prop gold coins from the extensive set depicting the mountain hideout of the dragon Smaug, from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." In response to a question about his favorite memory on set, he stated:

"Many. Many. Many. The scenery that was built in the studio was sensational. And I think my favorite set, that I didn't act in, was the golden [lair], where the dragon was hiding. Hundreds of thousands of golden coins, specially made."

His more dastardly act of thievery, however, came in the second half of his response.

"And if you don't tell anyone, I can tell you that I have some of those coins. Along with the [front] door key to Bag End, which I know Peter Jackson is looking for, but will never find."

Other than the late, great Ian Holm (who played Bilbo), McKellan is perhaps the one actor most intimately associated with the idyllic Bag End set. Though much of his performance was added in through digital trickery, McKellan certainly earned the honor of making off with the ornate key prop for the circular door. Here's hoping Jackson eventually learned that the key is in safe hands.