BREAKING: While Peter Jackson and Warner Bros are figuring out where they'll shoot back-to-back installments of The Hobbit, Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh have begun to set his cast for the ambitious projects that will begin shooting in February for release in December 2012 and 2013. The castings were announced by New Line Cinema COO/president Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros COO/president Alan Horn, MGM co-CEO Steve Cooper, and Jackson. As Deadline told you last week, Martin Freeman is set to play Bilbo Baggins, the adventurous Hobbit whose adventures and discovery of the One Ring leads the story up to The Lord of the Rings. Freeman has appeared in films ranging from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Hot Fuzz to Love Actually.
Jackson has cast several other significant Dwarf characters. Richard Armitage (MI-5 and Captain America: The First Avenger) will play Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the Company of Dwarves which sets off to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from a thieving dragon. Aidan Turner (Being Human) and Rob Kazinsky (EastEnders) will play Kili and Fili, members of the Company of Dwarves. Graham McTavish (Secretariat) will play Dwalin, John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury) will play Oin; Stephen Hunter (All Saints) will play Bombur, and Mark Hadlow (King Kong) plays Dori, while Peter Hambleton (The Strip) will play Gloin. That casting has just beginning, and there will be many more opportunities for the kind of career-changing roles that went in the original trilogy to the likes of Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood and Sean Astin. None of this is set, but I've heard that James Nesbitt and David Tennant are up for roles, and that Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis are expected to reprise Gandalf and Gollum, though I don't believe they have made deals. Stephen Fry, Saoirse Ronan and Bill Nighy (as the voice of the dragon Smaug) are possible participants, and Aiden Turner is in contention for the Elf King.
"Despite the various rumours and speculation surround this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us," Peter Jackson said. 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."
Of Armtage, Jackson said: "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 Oakenshield. 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."
On his choices of Turner and Kazinsky, Jackson said, "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 and I'm looking forward to seeing the damage he can do to a horde of marauding Goblins ... Aidan 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."
As for the rest of the Dwarves played by McTavish, Callen, Hunter, Hadlow and Hambleton, Jackson said: "Graham is a terrific actor, with a great depth of experience, which I know he will bring to the role of Dwalin. I have worked with Mark Hadlow on many projects, he is a fantastic actor...I am also proud to annouce 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."