Ringer Spy Greylin sends this in from the Times in England; it was in their March 9 edition.

McKellen angles for a TV Hobbit
Richard Brooks, Arts Editor

SIR IAN McKELLEN wants to reprise his role as Gandalf in a television version of The Hobbit. The actor has already won many plaudits for playing the wizard in the film versions of The Lord of the Rings.

McKellen, who is currently appearing in a West End production of August Strindberg’s play Dance of Death, has suggested to Peter Jackson, the director of the Rings trilogy, that he makes a television version of JRR Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit, the prequel to the Lord of the Rings.

The Hobbit begins with Bilbo Baggins living very happily in a hobbit hole until Gandalf arrives with the dwarves to take him away. On their adventure they encounter elves, goblins and trolls.

“I’ve asked Peter if he’ll do The Hobbit as a huge TV series,” said McKellen, who for many years was best known as a stage actor. “All those different strands in the book seem perfect for TV. We could also do every scene of the book.”

“It sounds a good idea to me,” said Christine Crawshaw, chairman of the Tolkien Society. “Ian McKellen was perfect as Gandalf, though one or two people have said to me that he was not grumpy enough. I also think a long-running TV series is a good idea, as that way you won’t have to cut anything.

“While I thought that the two film versions were good, particularly the Fellowship of the Ring, I’m a bit critical because so much had to be cut from the books.”

McKellen believes that television could be a better medium than the cinema for The Hobbit. “I remember those marvellous BBC children’s dramas they used to have on Sunday afternoons. This could fill that slot.

“I also think that TV could appeal more to Peter Jackson as he used to hint that after three movies he might be fed up with Tolkien.”

The first two films, which have starred Elijah Woods as Frodo Baggins, Liv Tyler as Arwen and Christopher Lee as Saruman, have been huge successes. Both have already grossed more than £500m. The third, The Return of the King, will finish filming in New Zealand this summer before its release in December.

Jackson, who has established a huge set and infrastructure for the Rings near Wellington, has recently hinted that he might make The Hobbit, too. “He’s not yet replied to my idea but I’m hopeful of persuading him,” said McKellen.

The director is currently in Los Angleles and was not available for comment. However, it is understood that he would not be happy seeing anybody else make a version of the novel. [This is completely wrong – I’ve read interviews with Peter Jackson where he’s said he’d look forward to being able to sit down in a cinema, relax, and watch somebody else’s work on the Hobbit. – Tehanu]

The screen rights to the book are held by the movie producer Saul Zaentz, who won Oscars for The English Patient, Amadeus and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

New Line Cinema, which made the Rings movies, is thought to have first right of refusal on producing a screen version of The Hobbit.