The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM have announced the titles and release dates for filmmaker Peter Jackson’s two-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit. The first film, titled “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” will be released on December 14, 2012. The second film, titled “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” is slated for release the following year, on December 13, 2013.
Both films are set in Middle-earth 60 years before Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar®-winning “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” The adventure of “The Hobbit” follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug.
Under Jackson’s direction, both movies are being shot consecutively in digital 3D using the latest camera and stereo technology. Filming is taking place at Stone Street Studios, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand.
Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, the character he played in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and Martin Freeman, who just won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the BBC series “Sherlock,” takes on the central role of Bilbo Baggins. Also reprising their roles from “The Lord of the Rings” movies are: Cate Blanchett as Galadriel; Orlando Bloom as Legolas the Woodland Elf; Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo; Christopher Lee as Saruman; Hugo Weaving as Elrond; Elijah Wood as Frodo; and Andy Serkis as Gollum. The ensemble cast also includes (in alphabetical order) Richard Armitage, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, Stephen Hunter, William Kircher, Sylvester McCoy, Bret McKenzie, Graham McTavish, Mike Mizrahi, James Nesbitt, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Mikael Persbrandt, Conan Stevens, Ken Stott, Jeffrey Thomas and Aidan Turner.
Evangeline Lilly will be playing a new character—the Woodland Elf, Tauriel. Her name means ‘daughter of Mirkwood’ and, beyond that, they leave you guessing! (No, there is no romantic connection to Legolas.) What is not a secret is how talented and compelling an actress Evangeline is; she will be the one to bring our first true Sylvan Elf to life. Lee Pace will be playing the Elven King Thranduil. Casting these Tolkien stories is very difficult, especially the Elven characters.
Barry Humphries will be portraying the Goblin King, in much the way Andy Serkis created Gollum. Barry is perhaps best known for his business and social connections as the long-time manager of Dame Edna Everage. He has also been an ardent supporter of the rather misunderstood and unfairly maligned Australian politician, Sir Les Patterson. Evangeline and Barry, along with Welsh actor Luke Evans as Bard the Esgaroth, the “grim faced” character was a skilled archer and the heir of Girion, the last king of old Dale, who was killed by the dragon Smaug. Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug and he is also going to lend his voice to the character Necromancer, just about rounds out the major casting.
Stephen Fry will be playing The Master of Laketown. In addition to his writing skills, he’s a terrific actor and will create a very memorable Master for us. The Master’s conniving civil servant, Alfrid will be played by Ryan Gage. Ryan is a great young actor who we originally cast in a small role, but we liked him so much, we promoted him to the much larger Alfrid part.
Another slim-line elf returning from LOTR, is a local: New Zealand’s actor/comedian/singer Bret McKenzie. Last time, he was an extra at Rivendell, the elven Last Homely House in the East. Under a tree at the Council of Elrond, he silently witnessed the forming of the Fellowship. Now he is briefly back in Rivendell as a senior official at Elrond’s Court and he has a name “Lindir”, which means “singer”. Tolkien has plenty of songs in The Hobbit but the script doesn’t indicate that Lindir will be singing any of them. And there’s another wizard in town, preparing to make his appearance as Radagast the Brown, the eccentric friend of Gandalf’s, played by Sylvester McCoy.
Last, and certainly not least, is Conan Stevens, who will be playing an Orc called Azog (Orcs are never called Roger or Dennis for some strange reason). And yes that’s his name—Conan! Isn’t that cool? Azog is played by Conan! Pretty tall, probably at least 6’5″ or 6’6″, so that gives you some clue how tall Conan is!
The screenplays for “The Hobbit” films are by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson. Jackson is also producing the films, together with Fran Walsh and Carolynne Cunningham. The executive producers are Ken Kamins and Zane Weiner, with Philippa Boyens serving as co-producer.
“The Hobbit” films are productions of New Line Cinema and MGM, with New Line managing production. Warner Bros Pictures is handling worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television licensing being handled by MGM.