Sir Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis are to reprise their roles as Gandalf and Gollum in the upcoming films based on The Hobbit, it has been reported.

Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo Del Toro was confirmed to direct the two films based on JRR Tolkien's book last week and will be moving to New Zealand in due course to begin production.

Peter Jackson, the Kiwi director of the Oscar-winning Lord Of The Rings trilogy, had been involved in a lengthy contractual dispute with production company New Line, but has since resolved the row, agreeing to executive produce the project with his partner Fran Walsh.

And it was announced last week that Del Toro, 43, has been selected to produce two films based on The Hobbit, the first likely to be a straight adaptation of Tolkien's work, with the second believed to use the author's appendices to serve as a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings films.

According to Mexican-born Del Toro, McKellen and Serkis are keen to revisit their roles in the hugely successful trilogy.

Talking to Tolkien fansite, Del Toro revealed he "had a charming meeting with Sir Ian".

"All bureaucracy pending, he's on board, as is Andy Serkis," he added.

"We will continue giving you progress reports as they occur. It is our intention that we will not lose any of the key elements."

Del Toro also shed further light on the plans for the second film, saying it is "not a 'tag on', it's not 'filler'".

"It's an integral part of telling the story of those 50 years of history lost in the narrative," he continued.

"There will be certain things that we will see from the first movie but from a different point of view, but it will feel like a volume, in the five volumes of the entire story."

He added: "It will not feel like a bridge, I've been hearing it called 'a bridge film', it's not, it's an integral chapter of the story."

28/04/2008 15:06:09