Sean Connery’s Worst Hollywood Decision Cost Him $450 Million

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

Sean Connery

Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, a move that ended up costing the actor $450 million. While Sir Ian McKellen ultimately donned the robes and staff of the wise wizard, it was Connery whom Jackson initially had his sights set on for the role, but the James Bond actor turned the part down to play Allan Quatermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Sean Connery In Lord Of The Rings?

Sean Connery

Before McKellen was approached for the part, Jackson and his team had considered casting Sean Connery or Anthony Hopkins as Gandalf.

Both Connery and Hopkins boasted substantial star power at the time, compared to McKellen who was virtually unknown.

Had Sean Connery accepted the role of the wise old wizard, it would have marked a significant departure from his suave and debonair portrayal of James Bond. But it wouldn’t have been too far off from another part he played in the late 90s as the voice of the wise dragon Draco in DragonHeart (1996). 

A Massive Salary

Nevertheless, the opportunity presented a lucrative prospect for the Scottish actor. Sources indicate that Sean Connery was offered a base salary of $30 million along with a deal entitling him to 15 percent of the trilogy’s worldwide box office earnings.

This arrangement could have potentially translated to a windfall of nearly half a billion dollars for the legendary actor.

Ian McKellen As Gandalf

It’s also a lot better deal than any other cast member was offered, including McKellen when Jackson finally got around to asking him to play the part.

While the exact number of McKellen’s salary hasn’t been disclosed, it’s been reported that the actor made a total of $14 million for the first two Lord of the Rings movies. While that’s still a small fortune, it’s nothing compared to the $450 million Sean Connery turned away.

Sean Connery Obviously Declined The Role

Sean Connery

However, despite the financial incentives and the opportunity to leave an indelible mark on one of literature’s most beloved characters, Sean Connery ultimately declined the role. According to reports, the actor cited a lack of resonance with the character and the story as reasons for his decision.

Would Have Been A Very Different Gandalf

In retrospect, while Sean Connery’s portrayal of Gandalf could have offered a unique interpretation of the character, many fans find it difficult to envision anyone other than McKellen embodying the wise and compassionate mentor of the Fellowship.

McKellen’s portrayal of Gandalf resonated deeply with audiences and he was dedicated to the part, reportedly reading Lord of the Rings each evening before filming. McKellen was able to capture the essence of the character with warmth and empathy in a way Connery likely wouldn’t have been able to do.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Instead

Sean Connery

Sean Connery chose not to take part in the Lord of the Rings franchise so he’d be free to make League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, one of the last five projects he’d contribute to before he died in 2020.

Meanwhile, Lord of the Rings skyrocketed McKellen into stardom. He was later offered the role of another wise old wizard, Dumbledore, in the Harry Potter franchise after Richard Harris’ death, though he ultimately turned it down out of respect for the late actor.

So, next time you put on the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies, try imagining Sean Connery’s iconic voice in place of Ian McKellen. Would the Scottish actor have made a better wizard?