After months of speculation, "The Hobbit" will go forward with two more "Lord of The Rings" stars reprising their pivotal characters.
Ian McKellen has formally agreed to return as Gandolf The Grey in "The Hobbit," according to The Hollywood Reporter. The two part feature film adaptation will be directed by Peter Jackson from J.R.R. Tolkien’s original novel.
McKellen’s participation was expected ever since "The Hobbit" was announced as a follow up project, but the veteran actor never signed a deal to come back before now. In the last few years, McKellen has taken fewer live action roles and appeared primarily as a voice actor on film and TV. Most notably, he was Magneto in the "X-Men" film series and he co-starred in the remake of "The Prisoner."
Deadline is also reporting that Andy Serkis has closed his deal to play Gollum as well. Serkis’ motion capture and voice work as Gollum in the "Lord of The Rings" trilogy galvanized his career and led to other collaborations with Jackson, including his "King Kong" remake and the upcoming "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn."
Gollum’s appearance in "The Hobbit" is an important scene in which Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) first acquires the one ring that becomes the focus of the later trilogy.
According to the Deadline report, Ian Holm is also in talks to return as an elderly Bilbo Baggins for a framing sequence with Elijah Woods’ Frodo. Christopher Lee may also appear as the wizard Saruman, despite his absence in the original book.
Woods’ deal was announced last week shortly after Warner Brothers picked up the international film distribution rights from MGM. "The Hobbit" is expected to begin shooting in February with the first film due in December 2012 and the second part to follow in December 2013.