Warner Bros., New Line and MGM confirmed today that Martin Freeman ("The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" H) will play Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's long awaited adaptation of "The Hobbit."

"Despite the various rummers and speculation surrounding this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us,”Jackson said in a release.  “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.”

Richard Armitage (UK TV's "MI-5 and the upcoming "Captain America: The First Avenger") will play Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the Company of Dwarves which sets off to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from a thieving dragon.
 
“Richard is one of the most exciting and dynamic actors working on screen today and we know he is going to make an amazing Thorin Oakensheild," Jackson says. "We cannot wait to start this adventure with him and feel very lucky that one of the most beloved characters in Middle-earth is in such good hands."

Rounding out the Company of Dwarves are Aidan Turner (TV's Being Human) and Rob Kazinsky (TVs EastEnders) who play Kili and Fili, respectively.

Jackson comments, "Rob is an extremely talented young actor with a huge career in front of him, I'm thrilled that he has agreed to take on the role of Fili.  Besides his talent as an actor, Rob is also a champion sword fighter; I'm looking forward to seeing the damage he can do to a horde of marauding Goblins!"  He continues, "Adian is a wonderfully gifted young actor who hails from Ireland. I'm sure he will bring enormous heart and humor to the role of Kili."

The remaining dwarves are as follows: Graham McTavish ("Secretariat," TV's "24") as Dwalin; John Callen ("Power Rangers Jungle Fury") as Oin; Stephen Hunter ("All Saints") as Bombur; Mark Hadlow ("King Kong") as Dori; and Peter Hambleton ("The Strip") as Gloin.  

"Graham is a terrific actor, with a great depth of experience, which I know he will bring to the role of Dwalin," Jackson said. "I have worked with Mark Hadlow on many projects; he is a fantastic actor.  I am thrilled to be working with both of them on these movies."

Jackson also said, "I am also proud to announce the casting of New Zealand actors as Peter Hambleton, John Callen and Stephen Hunter. Fran and I know that they will bring great depth and talent to our Company of Dwarves."

Pre-production on "The Hobbit" is currently underway.  There are still outstanding issues on whether the film will shoot in New Zealand, however, because of protests by International trade guilds.  It appeared those differences were resolved, but in a earlier statement today, Warner Bros. reps said:

"Recent reports that the boycott of The Hobbit was lifted by unions a number of days ago and that Warner Bros asked to delay this announcement are false. It was not until last night that we received confirmation of the retractions from SAG, NZ Equity and AFTRA through press reports.  We are still awaiting retractions from the other guilds.  While we have been attempting to receive an unconditional retraction of the improper Do Not Work Orders for almost a month, NZ Equity/MEAA continued to demand, as a condition of the retractions, that we participate in union negotiations with the independent contractor performers, which negotiations are illegal in the opinion of the New Zealand Attorney General.  We have refused to do so, and will continue to refuse to do so.  The actions of these unions have caused us substantial damage and disruption and forced us to consider other filming locations for the first time.  Alternative locations are still being considered."

The studio's consideration of a different locale other than Jackson's homeland and the country where "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was shot has become a national issue for the Kiwis.  Losing "The Hobbit" could result in a damaging effect on the country's economy. Other locations being considered include London and Eastern Europe.

"The Hobbit, Pt. 1" is expected to hit theaters in Dec. 2012.

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