By Adam Markovitz
Updated March 18, 2010 at 01:05 PM EDT

In a post on his official website, actor Ian McKellen confirmed that the long-gestating Hobbit project will begin shooting this July in New Zealand, with two films planned. “Filming will take over a year,” says the announcement, which confirms that McKellen will reprise his role as the wizard Gandalf. “Casting in Los Angeles, New York City and London has started. The script too proceeds. The first draft is crammed with old and new friends, again on a quest in Middle Earth. The director Guillermo del Toro is now living in Wellington, close to the Jacksons’ and the studio in Miramar.”