After a long list of roles, from Richard III to an aliased Nazi officer living in the US and a film director James Whale, British actor Ian McKellen reprises the role of the wizard Gandalf the Grey in the first movie in The Hobbit trilogy that opens in theaters this month. The role, which was offered to him while he was filming the X-Men series, was initially played by McKellen in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This trilogy chronicled the journey of the Fellowship of the Ring through Middle Earth to destroy the One Ring which would consequently destroy the Dark Lord Sauron.

His extraordinary display of acting prowess as the great wizard who led the Fellowship earned for McKellen awards and nominations from movie award giving bodies like the Screen Actors’ Guild and the Academy Awards. The movie was likewise elevated to fame of unparalleled proportions in all aspects of movie production including casting, cinematography, musical score, and visual effects. In The Hobbit, followers of the Tolkien series have high hopes for McKellen and the rest of the cast. This movie takes audiences back to Middle Earth where hobbit Bilbo Baggins and 13 dwarves embark on a quest to conquer dragon Smaug in order to reclaim the Lonely Mountain.

In The Hobbit, McKellen’s character recruits Baggins, forms the contingent of dwarves, and leads them in their quest. McKellen is happy about being able to play the role, “I don’t find anything odd at all in being known for playing Gandalf. I couldn’t be happier about it,” he admitted in an interview with an online magazine. His audiences, apparently, have no complaints either about seeing him again on the big screen in such an iconic role.

McKellen is also best remembered for popular roles as Magento in the X-Men movie series and as Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code. He is also a self-confessed gay activist who is quite vocal about fighting for LGBT rights. At age 73 and battling with prostate cancer, it does not seem that McKellen is set to bow out of the silver screen just yet.