Ian McKellen reveals joy at The Hobbit at New York premiere

Sir Ian McKellen, who reprises his Lord of the Rings role as Gandalf in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was excited to reunite with old cast-mates and friends at the film's premiere, including X-Men co-star Patrick Stewart.

Stars of The Hobbit, including McKellen, Martin Freeman, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis and director Peter Jackson, braved the cold for the film's New York premiere, an event that drew protests from animal rights activists about alleged mistreatment of horses during the making of the film.

73-year-old McKellen, who has been tapped to appear in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, says he has no interest in retiring any time soon.

"Slow down? I slow down as often as I need to. If I need a rest, which I've just been having, I take it. But I enjoy working as long as it's with friends and it’s something that I really want to get involved with," he said.

McKellen also took the time to congratulate the state of Washington, where hundreds of same-sex couples started picking up marriage licenses on Thursday as a voter-approved law legalizing gay marriage took effect.

"Well, it takes longer over here because you've got so many states to deal with," he said.

"You're a continent as well as a country. It's easier in the UK, it's smaller. But we don't have gay marriage yet. But it's on the cards and all the members of the parties have seen sense and understood that equality is the thing.

“If marriage is such a wonderful thing, why deny it to people who want to get married to whoever they want to get married to?"

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of three prequels to The Lord of the Rings movies. It opens in the UK on December 13.