Warner Bros., New Line, MGM, producer Peter Jackson and screenwriter and director Guillermo del Toro have been surprisingly quiet on the subject of when "The Hobbit" will begin shooting, but returning "Lord of the Rings" trilogy star Ian McKellen certainly isn't.  The Oscar-nominated acting legend is returning as Gandalf the Grey for the big screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to "Rings" and posted new information regarding the project on his website.

McKellen reports that "The Hobbit" will begin shooting, as expected, in New Zealand as soon as this July.  He also posted that casting has taken place in Los Angeles, New York and London.  McKellen notes, "The first draft is crammed with old and new friends, again on a quest in Middle Earth."

He also reveals that del Toro is now living in Wellington, New Zeland, close to Jackson's and the production studio in Miramar.

Rumors have been swirling that del Toro and crew were still having problems with the screenplay. Moreover, the company still hasn't cast the crucial role of the young Bilbo Baggins. Ian Holm played the older Baggins in the "LOTR" trilogy, but is not expectd to return.  This announcement is also curious as New Line/Warner Bros. haven't officially greenlit the project as of yet.

Look for more news on this story as it becomes available on HitFix.