[UPDATE: Ian McKellen will reprise his role as Gandalf in The Hobbit]

Bringing back Andy Serkis to once again play the dual-minded, shriveled creature known as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s new venture to Middle-Earth, The Hobbit, has been a no-brainer since the project was initially announced some 50 years ago (kidding, of course, but all the delays have certainly made it feel like half a century has passed).

Serkis has reportedly closed a deal to provide the facial expressions and physical movement for the motion-capture creation that is Gollum in both Hobbit movies, which will be financed and theatrically distributed worldwide by Warner Bros.

While Serkis’ reps have yet to officially confirm his involvement with The Hobbit, Deadline says it’s a done deal – and given the universal praise surrounding Serkis’ performance as the “precious” obsessed Gollum, there is little reason to doubt that claim. Ian McKellen is still working on a deal to return as Gandalf the Grey, but that too seems like a matter of time as the actor’s turn as the wise but aged wizard was beloved by moviegoers of all creeds – and there’s never been any bad history reported between the X-Men star and Jackson’s camp.

UPDATE: Heat Vision is reporting that Ian McKellen has officially signed on to reprise his role as Gandalf in both Hobbit films, which will begin shooting in New Zealand on February 14th, 2011.

J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit focuses around the experiences of a young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he, a band of 13 dwarves, and Gandalf set out on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the treasure-guarding dragon Smaug. According to Lord of the Rings canon, Bilbo recorded his grand adventure many years later in the book “The Hobbit or There and Back Again,” which – in Jackson’s films – will be read by Frodo (Elijah Wood) in the present (presumably, before his departure to the Grey Havens in Return of the King).

Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), opposite the elderly Bibo (Ian Holm).

The flashback structure of Jackson’s Hobbit films also accounts for why Ian Holms is currently in talks to reprise his turn as the older version of Bilbo. Tolkien’s additional text about the history of Middle-Earth will also partially be covered in both Hobbit movies, which explains why the less dense novel is being recounted in two, rather than one film like each chapter in the Lord of the Rings series. This also accounts for why cast members such as Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, and Orlando Bloom are likely to return as the wizard Saruman, the Lady Galadriel, and the elf Legolas, respectively, in both movies – despite their characters not being in the original Hobbit novel.

The Hobbit: Part 1 is scheduled to reach regular, 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters on December 19th, 2012. Part 2 will arrive a year later in December of 2013.

Source: Deadline

Update Source: THR