The cast so far. Martin Freeman (Bilbo) and 13 dwarves in the first cast shot
When word trickled out that Peter Jackson was going to shoot the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy as films back in 1999, 22-year old me was off the wall with excitement. Think about it, the most recent viable traditional-style fantasy film prior to that was way back in 1988 when Ron Howard’s WILLOW was released. I use this example because up till that point the fantasy book reader within me only had a few films on offer to be visual representations of the worlds I loved, and therefore I watched WILLOW like 120 times. Then Jackson came forward, New Line Cinema ponied up the dough and with his amazing effect company at his back he proceeded to make the bloody granddaddy of the genre into films. Films that subsequently stand as some of my favourites ever. Hell, the Battle Of Helms Deep in THE TWO TOWERS stands as the greatest battle sequence I have ever witnessed on film.
All that said, the long-suffering, mildly development hell idea that was the prequel film(s) THE HOBBIT hadn’t yet excited me simply because the trials it has gone through since the idea arose sometime in 2006 were working so clearly against the thing ever getting made. Jackson was initially asked to direct, but then Jackson’s lawsuit of New Line for holding back profits from him proved to be correct (he was awarded money when the courts found that New Line did hold back), subsequently producing a rift between the director and New Line Co-founder Robert Shaye that seemed to be un-mendable. Even when things looked up in 2008 and Spanish director Guillermo Del Toro came on board to direct (Jackson in the Executive Producer’s chair) I still couldn’t get excited because I felt that things were probably destined to go awry…again. In 2010 (2 and a half years after he was attached) various delays kept the film(s) from going into production and eventually Del Toro left the project. He did so citing that the delays had already kept him away from his family enough and that he didn’t want to ask them to put their lives on hold for a few more years while things shot in NZ, nor did he wish to move them there. This brings us full circle now to 2011, and surprisingly with the year only a month and a half old, all the stops in place up till now were miraculously removed. The information and forward motion on the production of THE HOBBIT has subsequently jumped into rocket pace. The film is now set to be directed by Peter Jackson ([fist pump] Thank you to the various gods!), shot in New Zealand again (where the Hobbiton set still exists as a tourist locale), and not only that but a majority of the cast has been chosen and have actually all BEEN IN New Zealand for a month…unbeknownst to all us interwebbers. Well played Mr. Jackson.
...and so the words I have awaited saying since the project was first announced in 2006 can finally be said.
Filming is set to start on March 21st, 2011.
Okay, now I can be excited! Excuse me while I do my little Elvish happy dance. XD
So, without further adieu I will spell out the info that has been announced thusfar:
MARTIN FREEMAN – BILBO BAGGINS
IAN MCKELLEN – GANDALF
RICHARD ARMITAGE – THORIN OAKENSHIELD
AIDAN TURNER – KILI
ROB KAZINSKY – FILI
GRAHAM MCTAVISH – DWALIN
JOHN CALLEN – OIN
STEPHEN HUNTER – BOMBUR
MARK HADLOW – DORI
PETER HAMBLETON – GLOIN
JAMES NESBITT – BOFUR
ADAM BROWN – ORI
SYLVESTER MCCOY – RADAGAST THE BROWN
HUGO WEAVING – ELROND
CATE BLANCHETT – GALADRIEL
ANDY SERKIS – GOLLUM
CHRISTOPHER LEE - SARUMAN
BILL NIGHY – THE VOICE OF SMAUG (RUMORED)
VIGGO MORTENSEN – ARAGORN (RUMORED)
SAOIRSE RONAN – ITARIL (RUMORED)
DAVID TENNANT – THRANDUIL (IN TALKS)
There is talk of Orlando Bloom wanting $1 million to do a cameo as Legolas, and should this rumour be true I say to him “Peter Jackson made you, show some bloody respect”. There is also talk of Elijah Wood’s involvement as Frodo, but to what end is unknown. My guess would be either as an epilogue piece to the second part, or in some sort of narration. Initial trepidation of Lee returning to play Saruman was not due to anything except that his health is not the best for traveling, but in the end he agreed provided his health holds. Apparently McKellan, Blanchett, Serkis and Weaving were all no-brainer locks to return, as all of these actors had no hesitation in agreeing to reprise their various roles. The inclusion of the seventh Doctor Who (Sly Mcoy) as Radagast the Brown has the fanboy inside me squeeing. The further tentative inclusion of 10th Doctor Who David Tennant as Legolas’ father and king of Mirkwood Thranduil has the fanboy inside me squeeing even more. This film is now shaping up to be just as exciting as the trilogy that preceded it, if not more. The only other info is that apparently the original mountain used as Mount Doom has been deemed a protected spot by the local tribes of Maori and won’t be used. The good news? There are other mountains in NZ that can double for it, no problem.
Initially planned with THE HOBBIT as one film and then follow with a second “bridging” film (this was abandoned, as the idea didn’t really go over too well and felt tacky), it has now been decided, likely by Jackson himself, that to do the story in THE HOBBIT justice, it will be split into two parts (shot simultaneously). I love that idea and in the same vein as splitting the final Potter movie I feel that the subject matter will get more attention and be a fuller and better audience experience. I can imagine it’s daunting for Jackson to return (at first he cited not wanting to direct as he didn’t want to have to compete with his LOTR trilogy), but at the same time I would surmise that it must also be thrilling simply because this is his bread and butter and he just does it right. I look forward to the first teaser of this flick with the same excitement I did more than ten years ago when I clicked on a fairly small (by today’s standards) Quicktime file teaser of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and heard the prologue poem about the One Ring, and footage laid over with that “Gothic Power” music thundering through my tiny speakers. I do hope that it stands to create the same amongst our readership. I just get all nostalgic remembering seeing it the first time.
Below you will find video in which Martin Freeman and the guys playing all the dwarves give a press conference in NZ, and it’s some interesting stuff and worth the watch. Martin Freeman says "I'm in the fucking Hobbit"...which is awesome and apt.