Celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver has revealed he turned down the chance to appear as a Hobbit in one of Peter Jackson’s big screen blockbusters.

The culinary guru said he had been offered the role in return for flying to New Zealand in 2001 to cook at the director’s 50th birthday celebrations. “I really wanted to do it,” he revealed during filming for his new TV show. “I would have got right into it as well.”

However, he went on, he was unable to accept due to work commitments. Oliver spoke about the missed opportunity while filming his new Channel 4 series Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, alongside his friend Jimmy Doherty.

The first edition of the six-part series, filmed in a pop-up cafe on Southend pier in Essex, is due to be screened on 2 January. “The worst thing that happened to me was that I got phoned up by the exec producer and asked did I want to go and cook for Peter Jackson’s birthday,” he will be seen telling actress Kate Hudson. “And if I did, they would fly me over and I could be a hobbit in the film. But I was working, I couldn’t get out of it.”

Oliver’s non-appearance has not stopped the Hobbit films racking up epic box office returns around the globe.

That success story has been maintained by The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the third and final instalment in Jackson’s fantasy saga. This weekend saw the final Hobbit film hold off war drama Unbroken and the Stephen Sondheim-inspired Into the Woods to retain the top spot at the US and Canada box office.

According to studio estimates, the film took $41.4m (£26.6m) in its second weekend in North American cinemas.

Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and Into the Woods came second and third, based on their Friday to Sunday takings.

Their four-day takings, though, would have put them ahead of the Hobbit film. Since opening on Christmas Day, Jolie’s biopic of Olympic runner turned Japanese prisoner of war Louis Zamperini has made $47.3m (£30.1m) in North America.

Into the Woods, meanwhile, has made $46.1m (£29.6m) since arriving in US and Canadian cinemas on 25 December.

The film, in which Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and others play famous fairy-tale characters, enjoyed the biggest opening for a screen adaptation of a Broadway musical since 2008’s Mamma Mia.

Unbroken made $31.7m (£20.3m) between Friday and Sunday, while Into the Woods - based on Sondheim’s 1987 Broadway success - made $31m (£19.9m) over the same period.

The third Night at the Museum film took fourth place in this week’s chart, while the musical remake of Annie is ranked fifth.

Mark Wahlberg drama The Gambler made a modest debut at seven, while Tim Burton’s artist biopic Big Eyes missed the Top 10 altogether. For many, though, the real talking point of the movie-going weekend was the performance of Sony’s controversial comedy The Interview.

The film, about a fictional American plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has made more than $15m (£9.6m) from online rentals and purchases since being made available on Christmas Eve.

It also made $2.8m (£1.8m) from the 331 theatres in the US and Canada that have been showing the film since Christmas Day. “I’m so grateful that the movie found its way into theatres, and I’m thrilled that people actually went out and saw it,” said Seth Rogen, The Interview’s writer, director and star.

Sony initially called off its release after major theatre chains refused to screen it, only to reverse their much-criticised decision shortly afterwards.