Gandalf the Grey will return to Middle-earth unchanged after actor Ian McKellen confirmed he will reprise his role for the Hobbit films.
In a message on his website yesterday, McKellen, 71, said he was pleased to announce he would be part of filming when it began next month in New Zealand.
The decision had come down not to money but to dates, he said. The 18-month schedule would allow for sizeable breaks during which he could work on other projects.
"As my agent continued to negotiate with Warner Bros, I kept wondering was Gandalf what I most wanted to do, more than a new play, for instance, or indeed a new part? Sequels aren't necessarily as rewarding to act in as their originals," he said. "Could I let Gandalf go? Would anyone else care if I did?"
McKellen said he had brought the play Waiting For Godot to Australia and New Zealand last year because he expected to stay on and begin filming The Hobbit, but financial problems at MGM and the "ruckus" over trade union expectations had delayed that.
Other returning cast members have also been announced, with Elijah Wood to return as Frodo and Andy Serkis as Gollum.
Martin Freeman will play Bilbo Baggins while Cate Blanchett will appear again as Galadrial, and Orlando Bloom as Legolas.
Sir Peter Jackson will take charge of the two Hobbit films using screenplays he has written with former director Guillermo del Toro, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.
Sir Peter, in a statement, welcomed McKellen's return. "It is quite simply an honour to work with Ian. He is one of the greatest actors working in the world today and he also happens to be one of the nicest."
- The Dominion Post