Sir Ian McKellen has returned to Wellington with plans to drop in on an old stomping ground - the hobbit hole at Bag End.
The revered British actor, who played the wise wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is in New Zealand with the Royal Shakespeare Company to play the title role in King Lear.
He intends to catch up with old friends while in Wellington, and Peter Jackson has invited him to stay at his home in Wairarapa.
"He kept the set of Bag End, which was Frodo's house, and set it up for guests with running water, so I'm going to spend the night there," Sir Ian said yesterday.
"It'll be the one the hobbits were in which made them look small, so it'll be big enough for humans."
However, he does not expect to see much of his host. "I think he's filming, so he won't have much free time.
"We bump into each other on other occasions across the world. I last saw him when King Kong was opening in London. We e-mail fairly regularly. We're not out of touch."
Sir Ian, 68, said he fell for New Zealand while filming The Lord of the Rings and was "absolutely delighted" to be back after four years.
His last visit was for the premiere of The Return of the King.
"I'm a bit nervous on behalf of all the other members of the cast who are coming through. I want them to have as good a time as I did here.
"I was a bit nervous that the weather mightn't be too clever, but it looks terrific," he said, peering optimistically through Wellington airport windows.
Many members of the company are planning to holiday in New Zealand for a few days after the Auckland performances, before travelling to New York.
Sir Ian, who was knighted in 1990, arrived in Wellington yesterday with fellow RSC actor Sylvester McCoy, who plays Lear's Fool and was the seventh doctor in the Doctor Who TV series.
Tickets are still available for King Lear and The Seagull. Westpac St James Theatre is auctioning eight box seats for Saturday's sold-out opening night of Lear on Trade Me, with a reserve of $120 each.
- The Dominion Post
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