Ian McKellen as Gandalf

After years of financial difficulties, director changes, disputes over distribution rights, Actors Equity lawsuits, Peter Jackson’s hospitalization in February for an ulcer, and every other setback you can think of, J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ finally started filming this week in Wellington, New Zealand. Whew!

At this point, you have to think that everyone involved is wondering, “Ok, maybe we’re not supposed to make this film. Maybe we should listen to the forces at work here, and just scrap the whole idea.”

But no, they’re persevering forward, despite the odds! You go, Hobbit people! You go with your bad elf selves!

Director Peter Jackson in his Hobbit lair. Wait, does he have his foot in a bowl of fruit?

Martin Freeman, who stars as Bilbo Baggins, joked about the “curse of ‘The Hobbit’” last month, noting, “There are some bits of bad luck associated with it, but we’re ready to go — just as soon as 2015 comes around.”

Well, they’ll have to get cracking sooner than that, since the films – it’s being released in two 3D installments – are scheduled for release in late 2012 and 2013. Bilbo, along with 13 dwarves and the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), have been in Wellington for the past two months preparing for the films.

The story follows the journey of Bilbo, who’s swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by Gandalf, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakensheild. Their adventure takes them through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs, deadly Wargs, Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Bilbo finally meets with Gollum, where he gains possession of the “precious” ring in which the fate of all Middle-Earth rests. Epic!

Ian McKellen as Gandalf
Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf

Ok, let’s take a look at the cast: The Dwarves are played by Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Ken Stott (Balin), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), William Kircher (Bifur), James Nesbitt (Bofur), Stephen Hunter (Bombur), Rob Kazinsky (Fili), Aidan Turner (Kili), Peter Hambleton (Gloin), John Callen (Oin), Jed Brophy (Nori), Mark Hadlow (Dori) and Adam Brown (Ori).

Warner Bros. recently confirmed that Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Andy Serkis (Gollum) and Elijah Wood (Frodo) will reprise their roles from the previous ‘Lord of the Rings’ films. New Zealand actors Jeffrey Thomas and Mike Mizrahi also join the cast as Dwarf Kings Thror and Thrain, respectively.

Under the eye of director of photography Andrew Lesnie and director Peter Jackson, filming will take place at Wellington Stone Street Studios, the village of Matamata, and other undisclosed locations around New Zealand. The two films are reportedly worth more than $1 billion to the New Zealand economy, and the N.Z. government is providing incentives and tax breaks worth around $100 million to the shoot.

But I have a secret weapon in my Kiwi friend Melanie McMinn, who blogs over at Frugal Kiwi (check out her guest post on Three Films About Life in New Zealand and this photo of the real Mount Doom). When I asked her how far she lives from Wellington, she replied that it’s about nine hours by car. I say we start raising funds to get that girl to Wellington. Who’s with me?! We need a field reporter on the scene!

I know we don’t have any clips or trailers of the new films yet, but let’s refresh ourselves with this trailer from the extended version of [amazon_link id=”B0026L7H20″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]’The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy[/amazon_link], available on Blu-ray June 28, 2011. Also, here’s a great blog about all things Hobbit.

Images: Warner Bros.


  1. Jane, you crack me up! I’m glad to see Sir Pete get started with filming and we are all looking forward to another trip to his vision of Middle Earth. Even those of us who live in NZ, Middle Earth that is.


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