Sir Ian McKellen said goodbye to his role as Gandalf - and New Zealand - yesterday, in what some are calling the end of an era for New Zealand film.

Sir Ian is due to fly out today after packing away his beard and wizard hat as his scenes for The Hobbit trilogy were wrapped. He is bound for the United States where he is to begin rehearsals for a stage play.

Neil Cox, chief executive of the Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch, said the company hoped McKellen would return to tread the new stage when it reopened late next year. Sir Ian raised more than $350,000 for the rebuild of the heritage theatre - which was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquakes - playing 15 sold-out shows to more than 7000 theatregoers around New Zealand last year. "I'm sure he will come to see it once it's completed," he said.

Cox said Sir Ian's time as the Tolkien character was the end of an era.


"We know he likes New Zealand and he has a lot of friends here, and if he's looking for some time out sometime in the future, this is the place I'm sure he'll pop back to."

His feelings were shared by Sally Woodfield, a publicist who worked with McKellen on last year's Ian McKellen On Stage, as well as Waiting for Godot and King Lear.

She said the actor has a special affinity with New Zealand and agreed to star in the production of the Shakespearean classic only if it came to this country.

She described him as an honorary New Zealander who deserved to be given citizenship.

Sir Peter Jackson posted a photograph on his Facebook page of himself with McKellen.

"Seconds ago we finished our last shot with Gandalf. The end of an incredible adventure that began in 1999," he wrote.