Could The Hobbit Shoot Early Next Year?

Sir Ian McKellen thinks it might just...

We’ve had our fragile hearts broken too many times before to really, truly believe that The Hobbit will actually start shooting until there are hairy feet wandering through New Zealand, but the hopeful omens for the movie(s) have been increasing lately, what with word that MGM (or whatever the company morphs into once it cracks those financial issues) has been actively pursuing Martin Freeman as Bilbo. Now Ian McKellen is talking up the idea that the cameras could start to crank in January.

Speaking to The Bolton News (spotted via Coming Soon), McKellen revealed that the aim is for the early 2011 start, though he didn’t say much more than that and he’s mentioned dates before that have come and gone. There’s no official director in place just yet (though there are plenty of rumoured candidates and Peter Jackson keeps hinting at the idea that he might just go ahead and do it himself so we all stop asking), but with recent word that production company Spyglass is closing in on a deal to buy out MGM and sort the money troubles, the path appears to be getting clearer at last.

In related news, a Deadline story about Gary Ross jumping to the head of the queue to direct novel adaptation The Hunger Games also mentions that Sam Mendes has officially bowed out of the race, with a quiet nod to the fact that MGM is looking to get the Bond franchise back up and running, with a rumoured shooting plan for summer/autumn 2011.

Again, it’s so much speculation right now, but Mendes' cinematic schedule appears to be opening up a little, at the cost of Ian McEwan adaptation On Chesil Beach, which the Telegraph reported had been postponed after a lengthy pre-production shoved the schedule into the wrong season to shoot. That story, however, should be treated with caution as it appears to have vanished from the paper’s site.

We want to believe that things are now working out for MGM, and that we’ll finally get to report that The Hobbit is shooting and Daniel Craig is back at the firing range practising his gun skills, but it still seems too good to be true. At this point, though, we're desperate enough to send Empire's own Chris Hewitt out to Hyde Park with his famous McKellen impersonation, a bad grey wig/beard and wizard's costume combo to make a start on playing Gandalf so there's something to watch.