British actor Ian McKellen has voiced his disappointment over the fact that Peter Jackson has been dropped as director of 'The Hobbit.'

McKellen, who played the wizard Gandalf in the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, said on his website that it was hard to imagine another director matching Jackson's "achievement in Tolkien country."

"I am very sad as I should have relished re-visiting Middle Earth with Peter again as team-leader," he added.

Jackson had refused to discuss working on 'The Hobbit' until a dispute over DVD royalties with New Line Cinema was settled.

Earlier this week New Line said it had only "limited time" to make the film and would proceed without Jackson.

Fans have started an online petition asking for Jackson to be reinstated, also calling for a boycott of New Line's films.

McKellen, however, is hopeful things will work out.

"We will have to await developments but being an optimist I am hoping that New Line, MGM and Wingnut [Jackson's production company] can settle outstanding problems so that the long expected 'Hobbit' is filmed sooner rather than later," he wrote.