As anticipation for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey builds, lead actor Ian McKellen (Gandalf) has posted a new blog in which he examines whether or not director Peter Jackson has changed since The Lord of the Rings.

“It’s a fair enough question to ask about a director who has been so fêted and honoured since he delivered the LOTR trilogy to millions of grateful film-goers a decade ago,” writes McKellen on his official site. “But the basic answer is No: he’s still the same Kiwi, who loves nothing more than making films in his native country, surrounded by faithful colleagues whom he trusts and admires. It says a lot, for instance, that Andrew Lesnie, the brilliant cinematographer who shared in the Oscar bounty for LOTR, has since worked with Peter on King Kong and The Lovely Bones and is now back for The Hobbit adventure. I’ve never seen a director and cinematographer so in synch, with never any disagreement on set.”

Jackson directed the book to film adaptations of Tolkein’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy and is about to release his first of three Hobbit films this December titled An Unexpected Journey. Despite all of his success, McKellen writes, “Hollywood hasn’t manage to lure PJ away from home, though there must have been offers galore. Why would he want to abandon the comfort and convenience of his own newly furbished studios and workshops so close to his family home on the Wellington Bay?”

And his home country is very proud of his use of the country. So much so that they’re changing the name of Wellington to “Middle of Middle Earth” for a few weeks surrounding The Hobbit‘s world premiere.

Overall, no changes were noted by the esteemed actor. The most surprising change that McKellen noticed about Jackson? “Shoes are optional in New Zealand and most days Peter shot LOTR barefoot as a hobbit. But on The Hobbit filming he was always well shod, padding through the leaf mould and rubble of the sets in regular footwear. ”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in theaters December 14.

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