British actor Sir Ian McKellen says he loves what he has seen of The Hobbit movies in which he reprises his Oscar-nominated role of Gandalf.
Sir Ian, who played Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is currently based in Wellington, finishing the two Hobbit films with director Sir Peter Jackson.
Asked on TV ONE's Breakfast today if we are going to love The Hobbit movies, he said: "Well I love what I've seen."
Sir Ian said he spends a lot of his time at the moment adding his voice to the soundtrack of the movies.
"And so I get to see the first cut of the film. And that's always an exciting moment when it's all put together and frankly you begin to understand the plot a little bit better than you did when you were doing the actual scenes."
He said: "There're some great performances in it and Martin Freeman is going to win everyone's hearts as The Hobbit.
"Then all those dwarves - fantastic. And the sight of Middle Earth again. I mean you live in Middle Earth, you Kiwis. You know what it's all about. But for us foreigners to see up close the magnificent scenery - fantastic."
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first chapter in Jackson's two-part adaptation of JRR Tolkien's fantasy classic and will be released on December 14.
The two films were shot back-to-back in 3D, with the second part, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, due in cinemas in December 2013.
At weekends, Sir Ian is touring New Zealand with a one-man theatre production, Ian McKellen on Stage - with Shakespeare, Tolkien and You, to raise funds for the earthquake-damaged Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch.
The show opened with sold out performances in Stratford and Palmerston North last weekend.
It heads to Hamilton and Tauranga this weekend, before the first South Island performances in Nelson on May 20, then performances in Auckland and Christchurch, followed by Wanaka, Hastings, Wellington and Carterton.
The badly damaged Isaac Theatre Royal was insured for the majority of earthquake damage repairs, but policy excess and heritage restoration and improvement work has to be paid for by the not-for-profit Theatre Royal Charitable Foundation.
The foundation has launched a fundraising campaign to cover the additional costs of up to $6 million.