Peter Jackson and company might still be planning to shift the Shire after all the union problems with The Hobbit, but now we know who will be playing the lead. And it’s someone who has been rumoured, discounted due to scheduling, talked to us about it and then finally found space in his busy working life to head off to Middle-earth. Ladies and gentlemen, your new Bilbo Baggins is… Martin Freeman. You may start with the “told you so” at your leisure.
New Line and Warner Bros. made the big announcement early today, and it would appear that Freeman has had Jackson’s seal of approval almost from the start. "Despite the various rumours and speculation surround this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us," the director says as part of the official statement. "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."
But that’s not all… There are other characters in the story after all, and the statement was loaded down with other casting news. Spooks/Robin Hood’s Richard Armitage appears to be on a hot streak, as he’s in Captain America and will also play Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the Company of Dwarves who are on a quest to wrest the Lonely Mountain from Smaug. "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,” says Jackson of the decision.
And then there’s Being Human’s Aidan Turner, who is Kili and EastEnders’ Rob Kazinsky, who has signed on as Fili. “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," is how Jackson sums him up. And Turner? "Aidan is a wonderfully gifted young actor who hails from Ireland. I'm sure he will bring enormous heart and humour to the role of Kili."
The last of the confirmed castings include Graham McTavish as Dwalin, John Callen as Oin, Stephen Hunter as Bombur, King Kong veteran Mark Hadlow as Dori and Peter Hambleton as Gloin.
Deadline also reports that Stephen Fry, Saoirse Ronan and Bill Nighy are also in the running for roles (with Nighy on the list as a possible Smaug voice), though none of them are set yet. And though we’re all expecting Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum, they’ve yet to make deals. But can anyone else really be the wizard? And we’re pretty certain Serkis would resist someone trying to get into his performance capture suit.
That rumbling you hear is the avalanche of Hobbit casting still to come heading our way. Get ready, people…