Ian McKellen: Why My 'Hobbit' Deal Took So Long

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After months of speculation, Ian McKellen officially signed on to reprise his Lord of the Rings role as Gandalf in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit this week.

And on Wednesday, the actor took to his blog to tell fans why the deal took so long.

"The deciding negotiation was not about money but about dates," he wrote. "Gandalf is needed on set over the next 18 months but with sizeable breaks when I can work on other projects.  My worry that I could not easily escape from Middle Earth was lifted."

McKellen noted that at age 71, he wants to make the most of his career while he's still "fit" enough to do so and that the union "ruckus" in New Zealand that delayed production and threatened to force a relocation had concerned him.

"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?" he wrote. "Sequels aren’t necessarily as rewarding to act in as their originals."

Yet McKellen ultimately decided that he couldn't "let Gandalf go" and wrote that he is "happy" to begin filming in Wellington, N.Z., on Feb. 21.