Just after hearing the news that Andy Serkis is returning as Gollum in The Hobbit, it has now been confirmed that Ian McKellen will return as Gandalf for the prequel as well.

Gandalf has an important role in the story, as he literally gets the adventure started in The Hobbit. Ian McKellen's involvement has been hinted at and rumored for quite some time. We reported back in November that Ian McKellen took to his official website to announce his return as Gandalf. Now the deal has officially been finalized. Elijah Wood is also returning as Frodo Baggins and Cate Blanchett will reprise her role of Gandriel from the original trilogy. An offer is out to Orlando Bloom, although it isn't known yet if he will come back as Legolas.

Our story from earlier today indicates that Christopher Lee and Ian Holm are in talks to reprise their roles of Saruman and an older Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Casting news for this highly-anticipated project is coming in faster than ever lately, so don't be surprised to hear more about The Hobbit in the very near future.

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Production on The Hobbit is slated to begin on February 14 in New Zealand.