- 22 October 2010
- By Gerard Wood
For too long, every piece of news about The Hobbit movies has either been bad or double edged. Last week we learned that Warner Brothers and MGM had brokered a US$500 million deal to fund Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit in two 3D movies, with filming set to commence in February. The dark lining to that silver cloud was that filming would only commence if an industrial relations dispute between Peter Jackson's production company, Wingnut Films, and the Actors’ Equity Union in New Zealand was resolved. Things have since taken a turn for the worse with Jackson's announcement yesterday that Warner Brothers was looking to take production away from New Zealand and move it, most likely, to the UK as the Studio had lost confidence in the New Zealand film industry due to the threat of industrial action.
Today, finally, some great news with no threatening thunder clouds anywhere to be seen. After months (years really) of speculation, Peter Jackson announced that British actor and comedian Martin Freeman, best known from the British comedy series The Office, has been cast as the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.
Freeman is an inspired choice for the role of Bilbo, as inspired as Sir Ian McKellan in the role of Gandalf and Andy Serkis in that of Gollum. It seems that Freeman always headed the filmmakers' list for this role: "Despite the various rumours and speculation surrounding this role," Jackson said today, "there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us... There are a few times in your career when you come across an actor who you know was born to play a role, but that was the case as soon as I met Martin. He is intelligent, funny, surprising and brave, exactly like Bilbo, and I feel incredibly proud to be able to announce that he is our Hobbit."
In other cast announcements, Richard Armitage (Spooks, Robin Hood) will play Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the company of dwarves which the wizard Gandalf encourages Bilbo to join on an adventure to reclaim their stolen treasure from the dragon Smaug. Other dwarves in Thorin's company of twelve will be played by Rob Kazinsky, Aidan Turner (Being Human), Graham McTavish, John Callen, Stephen Hunter, Mark Hadlow and Peter Hambleton.
Who knows what news tomorrow will bring about Jackson's troubled adaptation of The Hobbit? The legal and financial troubles that have plagued the project from the word go seem to be resolved, but whether Warner Brothers will insist that the two movies are filmed somewhere other than New Zealand remains to be seen.
But come what may, Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, and that is a silver lining to brighten any dark cloud that might form over Middle Earth!
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