New Zealanders looking forward to an economic boost and fans of a homegrown Middle Earth staying put can rejoice. "The Hobbit" is staying in New Zealand. The New Zealand government announced last night that it had reached an agreement between director Peter Jackson, Warner Bros. — who were threatening to take the two films offshore — and the NZ labor unions that the production had been warring with and endangered to derail the picture.
"I am delighted we have achieved this result," Prime Minister John Key said last night about negotiations that included several government minsters including Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee and the Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister. "Making the two 'Hobbit' movies here will not only safeguard work for thousands of New Zealanders, but it will also follow the success of 'The Lord Of The Rings' trilogy in once again promoting NZ on the world stage."
"The industrial issues that have arisen in the past several weeks have highlighted a significant set of concerns for the way in which the international film industry operates," Key said. "We will be moving to ensure that New Zealand law in this area is settled to give film producers like Warner Bros the confidence they need to produce their movies in this country.This will guarantee the movies are made in New Zealand."
Budgeted around $500 million U.S. dollars ($250 million for each film), according to the New Zealand Herald, part of these negotiations means increased tax benefits for Warners, including a rebate which will mean up to an extra saving of $7.5 million per movie for the studio, subject to the success of the movies. The NZ Government has also apparently agreed to offset $10 million of WB' marketing costs as part of their "strategic partnership." Sounds like WB had NZ over a barrel, frankly and got what they wanted after the acrimonious labor dispute threatened to make the filming of the picture in New Zealand untenable. With the logistics out of the way it's pretty much onward an upward for "The Hobbit" and now all about filling the remaining casting spots.
Martin Freeman will star as Bilbo Baggins, Ian Mckellan, Andy Serkis, and Hugo Weaving, are all expected to return as Gandalf The Grey, Gollum and Elrond respectively (Cate Blanchett could return as the Elf Galadriel as well; they're all immortal), and many of the key Dwarves in the film have also been cast including character actors like Richard Armitage, Stephen Hunter (learn more about who they are here). Now it's just a matter to see if some of the more established actors, rumored to appear — Saoirse Ronan, Stephen Fry, David Tennant, James Nesbitt, Bill Nighy and Michael Fassbender — turn up in the film or not.