With a five-day domestic haul of $125 million, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is guaranteed to grab more than just a few headlines for its record-setting box office. But don't count on Sir Ian McKellen, the out star of the Rings trilogy, to pick up a newspaper to pore over stories about the film's performance. He says it's not because he doesn't care; he's just convinced that he had nothing to do with it. "I have no personal financial interest in the outcome, so I think it would be a masochistic act to read the returns. I didn't do any publicity for the second movie because I was shooting Emile, so I couldn't join in, and I noticed that the takings for the second movie were considerably more than the first, which I had helped publicize, so what the hell do they need me for?" McKellen told Reuters by telephone from London on Thursday. "As we've been going around the world--[the actors who comprise] the 'Fellowship'--we've been saying to ourselves, This is all very well, with wonderful things to remember for the rest of our lives, but actually do any of us need to do this? Would it make any difference if we all just stayed at home?"
New Line Cinema's publicity team surely wouldn't be happy about that, and neither would the throngs of fans that McKellen and his cast mates have come face-to-face with while making the "unnecessary" globe-trotting promotional rounds. "You know that the third film is going to be a success, but what you're not prepared for is being on the receiving end of all that affection people have for the characters and for the films," McKellen says. "If you are in a public place, particularly with the other actors, wham! It's just overwhelming, and I don't suppose it will ever happen to me again--it's been a thrilling experience."
Perhaps the only thing that comes close for Sir Ian is that other franchise he's known for--Bryan Singer's X-Men. It's that and Lord of the Rings that he can thank for being immortalized on, well, a box of breakfast cereal. "To have a lot of dolls made of two characters that I have played or to find little representations of myself falling out of a corn flakes box or on a Burger King mug, these are not necessarily desirable things, but when they happen you just sort of hug yourself with delight," McKellen says. But again, he doesn't want to take any credit for that either. "It's happening around us and in spite of us. I don't see what credit we can actually take--we are riding in Tolkien and Peter Jackson's chariot."