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‘Hobbit’ Expands To Three Films

Some new footage will be filmed, but mostly stretches original story

There is a lot of excitement over the upcoming Lord of the Rings prequel “The Hobbit,” and now that excitement has been boosted by news that Warner Bros. will add a third film to what was already a two-parter.

What that doesn’t mean, however, is a full new story — but mostly the stretching of the existing film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel from two films to three. While it is reported that some new filming will take place, it’s highly unlikely that director Peter Jackson along with the cast and crew will embark to film a third full film. The first two parts took 266 days to film, and just wrapped this month.

Jackson had hinted about adding a third film to make a trilogy at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this month, saying there was so much story that he was finding it difficult to choose what to cut. Of course, to make a move, Warner Bros. would have to cut new deals with actors who didn’t have a third film option already built into their contracts. On top of that, the studio had to gauge cast and crew availability to return to New Zealand to film any additional scenes that would be needed.

“I’m delighted that New Line, MGM and Warner Bros. are equally enthusiastic about bringing fans this expansive tale across three films,” Jackson said in a statement, according to Reuters.

It’s not clear how much of the first two parts of “The Hobbit” will have to change, and where the breaks in the story will now take place. It’s likely that the first part — “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” due in December — will remain mostly intact, and that changes will be made to the later films to recut some of the story. None of those details, of course, have been released, or how the future films will be named. Currently, the second film is called “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” but that name could shift to the third film.

Warner Bros. and MGM are obviously looking for a huge payoff in the film, and will likely get it. The first three films earned $2.9 billion in worldwide box office, and was nominated for 30 Oscars, winning 17, including Best Picture for “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.”

“The Hobbit” features the return of Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey and introduces “Sherlock” star Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. Ian Holm, who played Bilbo in the original trilogy, will return to play the older version of the character.

Also starring in the new films are Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman and Mark Hadlow.

Andy Serkis will return as Gollum, joining other returnees Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee and Elijah Wood. Lee, of course, is the oldest cast member at 90, and is the only actor to have actually known Tolkien.

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