Now that The Hobbit looks like it will actually happen, it's time to once again talk about the film's casting. And it appears Sir Ian McKellan will most definitely return as Gandalf. He is quoted in The Guardian as saying that he would be "very pleased" to return to the iconic role, which he played in the three Lord of the Rings movies. He also stated that he will do it regardless of whether or not Peter Jackson is brought back to direct the "prequel". In fact, McKellan claims he has received Jackson's blessing to do the film without him. And so the actor said that if he's physically capable of playing the character, he will certainly do so. Of course, he hasn't officially been asked to return, let alone cast, in The Hobbit. But surely he will be offered the part, right?

Obviously, he must be cast. Aside from the fact that he's iconically associated with the character, McKellan was even recognized with an Oscar nomination for playing Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring. But the main reason for McKellan to return -- and I'm sure he recognizes this, as does Jackson -- is for the fans. Some fans will be extremely disappointed if Jackson doesn't direct The Hobbit, but nearly all of the fans should boycott the film if the production goes with a new cast. It will be hard enough accepting someone other than Ian Holm playing Bilbo Baggins, which could very well happen since Baggins is much younger in the earlier story of The Hobbit than in the LOTR trilogy. But if Jackson didn't come back to direct, the film could end up in the hands of Sam Raimi, who we can assume would do the project justice by casting McKellan. Yet despite the new healthiness of The Hobbit, we still can't be sure it will happen very soon. So, if for some terrible reason McKellan isn't "functioning," as he says, who could possibly be considered to replace him? Michael Gambon, perhaps?