Now's when things start getting interesting.

Until this point, any and all conversation about casting for "The Hobbit" has been little more than a game of hypotheticals for fans.  Now, with the announcement having been made officially that Peter Jackson will direct both films in 3D, casting is underway for the film's February start date.

Obviously the biggest question regarding "The Hobbit" has to be "Who will play Bilbo Baggins?"  In my article about the greenlight being given, I stated my preference, one I've been saying in public for a few years now.  Imagine my joy at the idea that Martin Freeman, best known as Tim from the original "Office," might actually turn out to be the man they hire for the job.  Most recently, he played Watson in the exceptional new BBC series, "Sherlock," and it's a reminder of just what a great combination of open curiosity and wry wit he's capable of given the right material.  He's an exceptional choice for the role, and if it's true he's first on the list, I think Jackson and company may have hit a home run.

There are obviously going to have to be returning cast members like Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis, but for the most part, "The Hobbit" offers dozens of new roles, great roles, and it's going to give Jackson a lot of room to put together amazing actors from around the world to help bring this new corner of Middle-earth to life.  Right now, we're starting to hear names like David "Dr. Who" Tennant and Jimmy Nesbitt being mentioned, although without any particular character name attached.  I'm pleased to see Michael Fassbender also in contention for a role in the film, and if all of these guys end up in one film together, it's going to be an embarrassingly good cast.

Some of these roles will turn out to be voice-only, like whoever ends up signing on as the voice of Smaug, for example, but for the most part, we're going to see some familiar faces playing some great roles, and since we're just a few months away from the start of production, we'll start seeing these names pinned down in the days and weeks ahead.  Keep checking back here at HitFix for more on "The Hobbit" as the film takes shape.

"The Hobbit" will reach theaters in two parts, one in December 2012, and one in December 2013.

Can't get enough of Motion/Captured? Don't miss a post with daily HitFix Blog Alerts. Sign up now.

Don't miss out. Add Motion/Captured to your iGoogle, My Yahoo or My MSN experience by clicking here.

Not part of the HitFix Nation yet? Take 90 seconds and sign up today.

Become a fan of HitFix on Facebook.

You can e-mail me at drew@hitfix.com or follow me on Twitter, where I'm DrewAtHitFix.