Astin, who is now 92, said he “tested a few times for Gandalf” but the role eventually went to British actor Ian McKellen. The films also starred Astin’s adopted son, actor Sean Astin, who played the character of Samwise Gamgee.
“The last test I did, they gave me something out of the second book, and I studied it and came up with what I thought was a good interpretation of it, but it wasn’t at all what Peter [Jackson, director] and Fran [Walsh, screenwriter/producer] wanted,” explained John Astin in a new interview with The AV Club.
“I knew them well enough to say, ‘Hey, let me try to work on it and come back again.’ They would’ve been receptive to that,” he continued. “But I thought about it, and Sean was trying to get into the film, too, and I... well, to tell you the truth, I didn’t want to spend about a year and a half on a horse! So I just let it be.”
John Astin had previously appeared in Lord of The Rings director Jackson’s 1996 film The Frighteners.
Astin also discussed his role in legendary gothic sitcom The Addams Family, which he starred in as Gomez from 1964 to 1966. “It was fun to do the show,” he explained. “Most people ask me about The Addams Family, and it has dominated my professional life, really. But we just did two years... and, you know, it’s been on the air for more than 50 years following that! I regard it as good fortune, really.”
For the past few decades Astin has taught acting at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, but announced his retirement in the interview.