The choice of Martin Freeman as the actor to play Bilbo Baggins in the film of The Hobbit is of the greatest importance. No one is obliged to like the book or the film to be made from it, but it is bound to be popular. The Return of the King, the last in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson, drew the third biggest box office revenues of all time.
There is much behind this popularity. The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy, and audiences forget mundane realities while watching it. But it is also a myth, as J.R.R. Tolkien intended above all, for English speakers. Thus it engages interest in the most real choices of all: heroism or compromise, mercy or revenge, vice or selflessness. This myth exercised a deep appeal in the war-torn 20th century, and the transition to terrorism in the 21st is unlikely to reduce the appeal. That is not to say the myth is outstandingly told – in the books or, certainly, in the films. But it is a tribute to the power of mythology that films which are incomprehensible without a thorough knowledge of the sources have captured a mass market.
Martin Freeman – nice Tim from The Office – hardly need change from the dressing-gown that saw him through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But if The Hobbit is partly a domestic myth, Mr Freeman might even offer a persona a touch too ordinary. Millions will be interested to see whether that is true.
Peter Jackson said :
“Despite the various rumours and speculation surround this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us,” he 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.”
Part one of this film adaptation of the fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien follows Baggins as the hobbit journeys to the Lonely Mountain accompanied by a company of dwarves to reclaim a treasure taken from them by the dragon Smaug.
The leader of the dwarves will be played by Richard Armitage (UK TV’s MI-5 and the upcoming Captain America). Other actors cast as Kili, Fili and Dwalin and others include Rob Kazinsky, Aidan Turner, Graham McTavish, and Mark Hadlow, and New Zealand actors Peter Hambleton, John Callen and Stephen Hunter.
Others rumored to be in talks for roles include Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving. Ian McKellan is expected to play Gandolf with Andy Serkis as Golum, repeating roles from Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.
After delays in production due to MGM’s financial problems and then labor disputes with acting unions, it seems the film has been fighting goblins in middle earth. Though the acting boycott ended, the studio has considered moving the $500 million production from New Zealand to the UK, Ireland, Canada, or the Czech Republic.
The Hobbit, Part 1 is set for release in December 2012 with Part 2 to follow in December 2013.
The cast currently stands as:
Martin Freeman – Bilbo Baggins
Richard Armitage (MI-5) as Thorin Oakenshield
Aidan Turner (Being Human) as Kili
Rob Kazinsky (EastEnders) Fili
Graham McTavish (Secretariat) as Dwalin
John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury) as Oin
Stephen Hunter (All Saints) as Bombur
Mark Hadlow (King Kong) as Dori
Peter Hambleton (The Strip) as Gloin