Plummer still has regrets about turning the role down, but admits MCKellen found a warmth in the character he wouldn't have.

The veteran says, "I thought maybe three or four years (shooting the films) in New Zealand... I thought, 'There are other countries I'd like to visit before I croak (die)'... But it was a marvellous part. I loved The Lord of the Rings; I grew up on it, actually. It's a great, great, great book and it became a great film.

"And then Ian... was absolutely marvellous in it and he couldn't have been warmer, which I might not have brought to it (character); I might have been a little cold and imperious."

And Plummer jokes he'll forever despise his peer for being good: "I hate the son of a b**ch."