EXCLUSIVE: Ian McKellen Says 'The Hobbit' Script Pulls From Other Tolkien Sources

Tolkien-ites freaked out over the fate of "The Hobbit" – when's it gonna start shooting? Will the studio's financial implosion affect production? Um, the movies are still happening, right?! – received a much-needed boost last month from Ian McKellen, who revealed he'd actually read the script.

MTV News had a chance to chat with Sir Ian while he was promoting his AMC mini-series, "The Prisoner," and the actor behind Gandalf the Grey revealed some more details – and clarified others – that keep the Tolkien boosts coming.

Perhaps most intriguingly, McKellen said the script doesn't just draw on one of the Middle Earth author's sources. "They have added material to 'The Hobbit' from other Tolkein sources," he said, declining to elaborate further.

And there's a reason I've been saying "script" and not "scripts." While "Hobbit" will be split into two movies, McKellen has only read the script for one. "It was for one movie, but Peter Jackson tells me it's probably enough material for one-and-a-half movies," he said.

What gets cuts? What gets shunted to film #2? These are decisions that still have to made. As McKellen said, "There isn't a complete script [for the first film]. It would seem to me that we could start shooting from it. But it has to be budgeted and the second film, which is crucial to the enterprise, has got to be carved out of part of the current script."

So for a long time, script details will be kept under lock and key – an interesting stance, McKellen pointed out, since anyone who wants to know about the plot can pick up a copy at the bookstore. "So what are we being so secretive about?" he asked. "It's the way it's told. And the way it's told is very much in keeping with the way 'Lord of the Rings' was told. It's not going to be wildly different in look or style or approach."

"It will satisfy people that have already seen 'Lord of the Rings' and people that don't know it, they'll be fine too," he added.

Honestly, though, Tolkien devotees will only be fine for so long. When will this sucker start production?

"How long it will take?" McKellen answered. "I don't know when it will happen. I don't have a contract. But I think they're intending to release it on Christmas 2011. If they're going to do that, they're going to have to get moving on shooting it."

What do you hope makes the cut for the final scripts? Anything you want to see taken out? What other sources might Jackson, del Toro and company have turned to in filling out the script(s)?