It’s really happening, and here’s the proof: Peter Jackson has announced casting for his main Hobbit and eight of the Dwarves involved in Bilbo Baggins’ pre-Lord of the Rings adventure.
Now as a geek and a storyteller, I worship the ground Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy walks on. It was the most perfect book-to-film cinematic production ever, in my estimation. But Jackson’s record since LotR has been less than stellar. King Kong was a bloated love letter to a favorite film from Jackson’s youth — which no one enjoyed nearly as much as he did. And while I have yet to see The Lovely Bones, it was universally panned by critics for soft-serving the pedophiliac crime that was at the core of the novel. So call me cautiously excited that the two Hobbit films will return Jackson to proper form.
One thing that he’s always excelled at is casting. Every one of his choices for LotR was spot-on; even the actors we fans had reservations about are now so deeply entrenched in our minds that they’re inseparable from their LotR characters, a full decade later. (Seriously, what else has Elijah Wood even been done in the last 10 years?)
Deadline Hollywood nailed the exclusive announcement from Peter Jackson and Warner Bros. (which swallowed its LotR-releasing sibling New Line Cinema a few years ago) on The Hobbit‘s initial cast. And at the top of the list, as Bilbo Baggins himself, is a name that’s a surprise to no one: Martin Freeman.
A former star of the original British version of The Office, Freeman is known to geeks as the bumbling Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Declan in Shaun of the Dead, and his current co-starring gig on the BBC’s modern Sherlock as Dr. Watson. Freeman’s name has been bounced around for ages as Jackson’s top choice for the younger Bilbo Baggins that stars in The Hobbit. It turns out those rumors were true, as Jackson says of Freeman: “there has only ever been one Hobbit for us.” Personally, I think he’s perfect for the role, able to pull off a younger version of Ian Holm’s Bilbo (pictured to the right of Freeman above) while putting his own spin on the character.
The other cast members revealed today include:
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the Company of Dwarves that join Bilbo on his adventure. In case you are the last remaining human on Earth who knows nothing of The Hobbit‘s plot… well, let’s just say that the story is Dwarf-heavy. Armitage is mostly known for his British television roles on shows like MI-5 and Robin Hood. The Hobbit describes Thorin as “very haughty, stern, and officious. He has a talent for singing and playing the harp, wears a gold chain, and has a very long beard.”
Aidan Turner as Kili. Turner is best known for his starring role on the BBC’s Being Human as Mitchell the vampire. Kili and his brother Fili are younger than the rest of the Dwarves on the story’s mission by at least 50 years. As such, they have the best eyesight of the group and are frequently sent scouting ahead. They’re also described as being very cheerful.
Graham McTavish as Dwalin. A popular character actor, McTavish has guested on everything from 24 to Red Dwarf, and done a ton of voice work for animated shows and video games. Dwalin is the first Dwarf to arrive at Bag End, at Gandalf’s behest, to begin the quest central to the storyline. Not much information is shared about the character’s personality, so Jackson & Co. have a pretty blank slate from which to work with this one.
John Callen as Oin. Oin is brother to Gloin, and the only detail we have about the two of them is that they often started fires for the group. Mr. Jackson, we hereby present Oin and Gloin as presents to you to do with as you will. Callen is mostly known for roles on kids shows and games like Power Rangers and Star Wars: KOTOR II. (Callen appears to be camera shy, as it’s seemingly impossible to turn up a single photograph of him.)
Peter Hambleton as Gloin. Hambleton is a Kiwi actor known primarily for roles down under. Gloin is the father of LotR’s Gimli, and appeared briefly alongside his son in the “Council of Elrond” scene in Fellowship of the Ring.
Mark Hadlow as Dori. Another Kiwi actor, Hadlow actually had a small role in Jackson’s King Kong. Brother to Nori and Ori, Dori is a grumbling brute, the strongest of Thorin’s Dwarves who often winds up carrying Bilbo in situations where Bilbo is unconscious or unable to traverse difficult pathways.
Those are the only actors cast so far, but there are plenty of roles remaining. Ian McKellan is expected to return as Gandalf the Grey, and Andy Serkis is expected to don his motion-capture tights once more for Gollum, though deals are still being worked out for both. (There would be a fan revolt the size of D-Day if anyone else attempted to fill those roles.) Hugo Weaving will probably put in a brief appearance as Elrond as well.
Bill Nighy is being considered for the voice of Smaug the Dragon, which strikes me as an inspired choice; no one else in the world puts words together with quite the unique diction and inflections of Nighy. Bill Nighy is known for any number of genre works, including Davy Jones in the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films, Slartybartfast in Hitchhiker’s Guide (alongside Bilbo Baggins himself, Martin Freeman), and Rufus Scrimgeuor in the upcoming Harry Potter finale, among dozens of other roles.
There are still four more Dwarves to be named, as well as Beorn the shapeshifter, Bard the Bowman, the Elf King (father of Legolas), and more. Others rumored to be under consideration for various parts include James Nesbitt, David Tennant, Stephen Fry, and Saoirse Ronan. How awesome would Tennant be as the Elf King?