LONDON (Reuters) – For Canadian composer Howard Shore, it has been the movie challenge of a lifetime — writing the nine-hour score for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

But he loved every moment in the dark and fantastical world of Middle Earth, can’t wait to dive back in and is hopeful the mammoth composition could be Oscar-winning material.

And he stayed ever faithful to the J.R.R. Tolkien classic that has attracted more than 100 million readers over the last 50 years and was voted in many millennium polls as the book of the century.

“When I was writing, I had the book open on my desk and I was reading it page by page,” Shore told Reuters Television on the eve of Monday’s world premiere of “The Fellowship of The Ring,” the first in the trilogy of films being released every Christmas for the next three years. Shore, whose impressive Hollywood track record ranges from “Seven” to “Mrs. Doubtfire,” from “Silence of the Lambs” to “Philadelphia,” was the first to admit this was the most daunting musical challenge he had ever faced.

“I have found personal achievement in what I have done,” he said. “All of us as a group worked well beyond ourselves.”

The personable 55-year-old from Toronto said: “It is a very inspiring piece to work on.”

But surely he must have got sick of devoting such a large chunk of his life to the epic $270 million project that took 18 months to film amid the scenic splendors of New Zealand?

Not at all, says Shore. “Actually I felt if I had more time, I would be happy to live in that world. It was a wonderful world to live in.”

Movie buffs will be able to gorge themselves on the dark world of Middle Earth full of hobbits, trolls, elves and wizards where Frodo the hobbit sets out to destroy the magic ring before the forces of evil conquer all.

“In future you will be able to watch a nine-hour version of ‘Lord of the Rings’. I think of this as act one,” Shore said.

Inevitably, film critics have made comparisons between the magical world of the intrepid Frodo Baggins and boy wizard Harry Potter, who took the box office by storm last month when “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was released.

“Fellowship of the Rings” hits 10,000 cinemas worldwide on December 19, but Shore insists there is no comparison.

“They are quite different pictures. ‘Lord of the Rings’ is a much darker and more complex world. I think the comparisons are just due to the proximity of their releases,” he said.