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‘The Hobbit’ Finds Its Bilbo Baggins, And Other Middle Earthers

Director Peter Jackson, along with the studios, don’t waste time with announcement

The newest hobbit is one that fans may not know right away, but likely won’t forget in the near future when Peter Jackson makes and releases his next two films from the Lord of the Rings universe.

Martin Freeman has been cast as Bilbo Baggins for the two-part “The Hobbit,” which is now in pre-production from New Line, Warner Bros. and Metro Goldwyn Mayer. The film, a prequel to the Lord of the Rings series from the beginning of the decade, begins filming in February, with Peter Jackson taking the helm for the departing Guillermo del Toro.

Television fans know Freeman from his role as Tim Canterbury in The Office while genre movie fans really know him as Arthur Dent in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. He also was a guest actor in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg movies like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Freeman currently plays Dr. Watson in BBCs new series Sherlock. Filming schedules worked out so that Freeman could be cast in The Hobbit” without interrupting his work on “Sherlock.”

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,” Jackson said. “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.”

Freeman wasn’t the only actor to get a job in the films. Richard Armitage has landed the role of lead dwarf Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage is known for his role as Sir Guy of Gisborne in BBCs Robin Hood, as Lucas North in MI-5 and is currently filming as Heinz Kruger in the upcoming Captain America film.

“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,” Jackson said. “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.”

Even “Being Human” is getting a turn with “The Hobbit.” And no, not the Syfy version … the original BBC one.

Aidan Turner, who plays Mitchell in the series, will join Rob Kazinsky as Kili and Fili. Other confirmed cast members include Graham McTavish as Dwalin, John Callen as Oin, Stephen Hunter as Bombur, Mark Hadlow as Dori, and Peter Hambleton as Gloin.

At this point, it has not been officially announced that Sir Ian McKellen or Andy Serkis will be a part of the cast, but both actors have expressed their desires to reprise their roles of Gandalf and Gollum respectively.

Bilbo was originally played by Ian Holm, who obviously would be a little old — at 79 — to play the younger version of the character.

The first film is set to be released in 2012, while the second film will be out in 2013.

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