Sir Ian McKellen has insisted his negotiations to reprise his role as wizard Gandalf in The Hobbit were not about money.
The acting veteran has just signed up to the two-part prequel to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy after lengthy talks, and he has revealed he delayed committing to the project because he was worried it would get in the way of other projects and theatre work.
Sir Ian wrote on his website: "The deciding negotiation was not about money but about dates."
He added: "Gandalf is needed on set over the next 18 months, but with sizeable breaks when I can work on other projects. My worry that I could not easily escape from Middle Earth was lifted."
But McKellen - who took his production of Waiting For Godot on tour to Australia and New Zealand to coincide with the original start date for the filming of The Hobbit - admitted he had had doubts the project needed him on board.
He said: "I'm 71 and fit: though at my age who knows what accident is 'round the next corner? For a year or more, I have been arranging my professional commitments around the possibility of The Hobbit films starting at almost any time.
"As my agent continued to negotiate with Warner Brothers, I kept wondering was Gandalf what I most wanted to do, more than a new play for instance or indeed a new part? Sequels aren't necessarily as rewarding to act in as their originals.
"Could I let Gandalf go? Would anyone else care if I did? Elsewhere, does anyone care that Michael Gambon was not the first to play Dumbledore?"