Sir Ian McKellen says director Peter Jackson is still "the same Kiwi" he was before his Lord of the Rings success a decade ago - but wears shoes more often.
McKellen - who is reprising his Lord of the Rings role of Gandalf in the upcoming trilogy of films based on JRR Tolkein's The Hobbit book - praised Jackson in the latest post on his blog .
The actor wrote that it would be reasonable to ask if a director who had been "so feted and honoured" had changed.
"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," McKellen said.
He cited the return of cinematographer Andrew Lesnie to Jackson's latest project as an example of the respect his crew had for him.
"I've never seen a director and cinematographer so in synch, with never any disagreement on set."
'Padding through leaf mould'
McKellen speculated that there must have been "offers galore" for Jackson to head to Hollywood but said that in New Zealand he was a "national hero".
"Locals point out his achievements and purchases: 'That's the church, that's the theatre, that's the house that Sir Peter has just saved from demolition', he said.
But McKellen acknowledged he had spotted one difference in the director, who was known for shooting the Lord of the Rings barefoot.
"On The Hobbit filming he was always well shod, padding through the leaf mould and rubble of the sets in regular footwear," he wrote.
The world premiere for the first Hobbit film - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - is in Wellington on November 28, and the film hits New Zealand screens on December 13.
For all the latest news, videos and pictures check out our Hobbit page .