By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 21, 2011 at 11:45AM
Am I crazy, or doesn't writer-director-producer Peter Jackson look happy again? In the years since he completed The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which grossed a total $3 billion worldwide; extended DVD due June 28), he shot the gargantuan budget King Kong (which would have been hugely successful if it had cost less) and the smaller-scale The Lovely Bones, which cost more than the literary delicacy should have. He produced protege Neill Blomkamp's District 9 as well as collaborating closely with director Steven Spielberg on the Tintin trilogy; the first is due this December.
Jackson is back in control, in the world he loves, inside his comfort zone. Check out the first photos from Jackson's two-part adaptation (with Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro) of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit--read The Lord of the Rings prequel, 60 years ahead--now shooting with 3-D cameras in Wellywood. Synopsis and production details are below.
“The Hobbit” follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakensheild (Richard Armitage). Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers.
Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever … Gollum (Andy Serkis).
Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities … A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.
Other cast members include newbies Jeffrey Thomas and Mike Mizrahi as Dwarf Kings Thror and Thrain, respectively, plus dwarves Ken Stott (Balin), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), William Kircher (Bifur), James Nesbitt (Bofur), Stephen Hunter (Bombur), Rob Kazinsky (Fili), Aidan Turner (Kili), Peter Hambleton (Gloin), John Callen (Oin), Jed Brophy (Nori), Mark Hadlow (Dori) and Adam Brown (Ori). Returning are Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Elijah Wood as Frodo (there's a framing device). More casting is still to come. Also returning is director of photography Andrew Lesnie, production designer Dan Hennah, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, composer Howard Shore and make-up and hair designer Peter King. Costumes are designed by Ann Maskrey and Richard Taylor, who will again collaborate with the Weta Workshop. Weta Digital's VFX master Joe Letteri (Avatar) will supervise visual effects.
New Line Cinema and MGM will release the two films domestically in late 2012 and 2013 with Warner Bros Pictures handling worldwide theatrical distribution (select international territories and international television licensing are through MGM).
[Hat Tip: Slashfilm.]