Sir Ian McKellen has confirmed he is to reprise his Oscar-nominated role as Gandalf in the upcoming two-film adaptation of The Hobbit.

Pan's Labyrinth helmer Guillermo Del Toro was recently named as the man to translate JRR Tolkien's book for the screen and the Mexican-born director said earlier this week that he was planning to recruit McKellen and Andy Serkis to revisit their roles from the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

And approached by Empire magazine at last night's premiere of the new CGI extravaganza Speed Racer, McKellen confirmed that he had met with Del Toro about returning to New Zealand to star as Gandalf the Grey - the later white incarnation of course coming after his resurrection.

"Yes, it's true," the stage veteran said.

"I spoke to Guillermo in the very room that Peter Jackson offered me the part and he confirmed that I would be reprising the role.

"Obviously, it's not a part that you turn down, I loved playing Gandalf."

Peter Jackson, the Oscar-winning director of the three Lord of the Rings films, is to executive produce the two films based on The Hobbit alongside his partner Fran Walsh, after resolving a legal dispute with production company New Line.

And though the book is relatively slight in comparison with the trilogy of books regarding the fate of the One Ring, New Line are to produce two movies, one believed to be a straight adaptation of The Hobbit with the second detailing the years that pass between Bilbo Baggins' return from the Lonely Mountain and his eleventy-first birthday party at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.

When asked if he was aware of the films' structure, McKellen replied: "Well I've read The Hobbit so I've got a good idea of what the story would be.

"But as to how it's going to work over two films and what going to happen on screen, well Guillermo has not got down to working out the major details yet.

"I can tell you it's going to be amazing though," he added.

Filming is likely to begin in 2009.

30/04/2008 15:01:02