Although Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis have long been considered locks for The Hobbit, Peter Jackson's two-movie prequel to The Lord of the Rings, their names were conspicuously absent from recent casting announcements. It turns out, at least in the case of McKellen, there's a simple explanation for that: He hasn't signed a contract.
“I haven’t heard anything,” he told Showbiz411 last night. “Peter and I have been talking. And I know the picture has just been greenlit. So we’ll see.”
The 71-year-old actor, who of course played Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, made a similar assertion in a newly posted interview with Broadway World: "I am not under contract, no. [...] I'm not going to say any more than that because it might complicate things! So, I would say -- at the moment -- no, I am not under contract."
It's at least somewhat surprising that McKellen, whose character plays a central role in The Hobbit, wasn't signed by Warner Bros. the moment the long-delayed project. But here we are, after Bilbo Baggins and the bulk of the company of dwarves have been cast, and there's still no deal for McKellen, and no official word about Serkis or Hugo Weaving, who presumably will reprise their roles as Gollum and Elrond, respectively.
The Hobbit is set to begin production in February for release in December 2012 and December 2013.