By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist February 11, 2011 at 6:25AM
Take a good look. These are the faces (and names) that are going to dominate the movie blogosphere for the next couple of years. With Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" now set to lens next month after the director had a minor medical setback, the cast assembled for a press conference this week in New Zealand and a few photos were snapped of the entire crew. Aren't they a pleasant looking bunch? Obviously these are key players so if you're wondering where Elijah Wood and Cate Blanchett are, just remember, their appearances in the film are likely not going to be very large.
With the epic set to span two films, it's no surprise that production is going to stretch out over 18 months. That's a big commitment for any actor, particularly those in the lead roles, as it makes it difficult to join other projects as their windows of availability are suddenly shrunken. For Ian McKellen it was that reason that initially made it a question mark for him about returning to the franchise.
"Sequels aren’t necessarily as rewarding to act in as their originals," McKellen wrote on his blog last month, adding, "The deciding negotiation was not about money but about dates. Gandalf is needed on set over the next 18 months but with sizeable breaks when I can work on other projects. My worry that I could not easily escape from Middle Earth was lifted."
As well known by now, McKellen's fears have been allayed and he's joined the project, but nothing without lining up some other projects to keep him from getting mired in Gandalf too long. Baz Bamigboye reports that McKellen will take to the stage during some of his downtime to play a Neapolitan crime boss called Don Antonio Barracano, in "The Syndicate." The three-act play is a comedy and will find Barracano trying to resolve various disputes in the town over which presides, and also preventing a bloodbath by a "magnanimous gesture."
The project will surely be a nice way for McKellen to break up the monotony of sticking with one character for a year-and-a-half, and a smart move on his part to make sure he would be able to maximize this 'Hobbit' downtime.
"The Hobbit" starts shooting on March 21st and part one will hit in December 2012.