From The Dominion Post: Though the rest of the cast have expressed their enthusiasm for being in New Zealand, it seems The hobbit actor Sir Ian McKellen isn’t quite as excited. In a blog, McKellen – who will reprise his role as Gandalf – said he was relieved to have negotiated an “escape clause from Middle-earh” so he could play a Mafia don on stage. He will take a break during the 18 months of filming to fly back to Britain and star in The Syndicate, at the Chichester Festival Theatre, The Daily Mail reported. On his blog, McKellen also questioned his decision to play Gandalf, saying sequels aren’t necessarily as rewarding to act in as their originals. “My worry that I could not escape from Middle-earth was lifted.” McKellen is apparently on holiday in India, and will travel direct from there to New Zealand, where he will start filming on February 21.
UPDATE Sir Ian took to Twitter to correct a mistake in the above story. His start date for filming is now March 28th, and not February 21st.