'Hobbit' casting: Martin Freeman could still play Bilbo Baggins (EW EXCLUSIVE)

Yesterday, the British newspaper The Sun ran a story saying that Martin Freeman (a.k.a. Tim from the original U.K. Office) had to decline an offer (and seven-figure payday) to play Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies due to a scheduling conflict: The actor was already committed to shoot the BBC series Sherlock, in which he plays Dr. Watson. That’s all true, but according to sources close to the Hobbit production, it’s not over yet. New Line and MGM, the studios backing the Hobbit films, have since come back to Freeman with a proposed schedule that would allow him to shoot both projects. All parties are currently negotiating a deal.

Good news, right? What do you think? Is Freeman the right guy to play the titular hobbit in Jackson’s next epic trip to Middle Earth? How will Freeman’s Bilbo compare to Ian Holm’s? Whose feet will be hairier?

Comments (141 total) Add your comment
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  • CindyC

    McAvoy or bust.

    • Nathan

      Though I’m not the biggest McAvoy fan, I think he’d be a good pick for Bilbo. I wouldn’t trust this role to a TV actor who’s biggest movie credit was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

      • Laura

        Yeah, too bad all those suckers gave TV actor George Clooney a shot…

      • SirLizard

        Laura, can you believe that “TV actor” comment? An actor’s TV roots have NOTHING to do with his talents or abilities. That said, I agree with Nathan and CindyC that McAvoy could be good as Bilbo Baggins.

      • Desmo

        Too bad you haven’t seen Sherlock because that show rocks so hard. Martin is perfect as Watson.

      • katie

        Sherlock is an amazing show & he is great on it!

      • BFD

        James McAvoy is too pretty. Freeman is perfect.

      • tipsy

        Nathan, I`m in total agreement. Freeman has ZERO charisma and Bilbo is a leading man. The Hobbit isn`t an ensemble where a charisma vaccuum such as Elijah Wood doesn`t matter too much because stronger actors – especially McKellen, Serkis and Bean – made up for his shortcomings. Bilbo is the Tony Stark of The Hobbit. I`m sorry but nothing I`ve seen of Freeman so far points out that he has the leading man thing going. he`s alright supporting player with the tendency to play the same character over and over and penchant for goofy comedy. Not what Bilbo is about. But tell that to the director who throught jack Black was the awesome choice for the leading man in King KOng. (sarkasm)

      • chelsea

        Thought about it, and although I ADORE McAvoy, I think Freeman would be better for this. This would make Freeman’s career, while James McAvoy is already doing just fine on his own. Besides, he has X-Men coming up.

      • Alan

        Yes, because the original LOTR stars were HUGE Hollywood stars when the first LOTR film came out. Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood were massive Hollywood celebrities with huge resumes back in 2001 when LOTR came out right?? I think Martin Freeman would be GREAT! And he looks like a Hobbit too. This is great news!

      • Rose Tyler

        Guess you’ve never heard of Shameless or State of Play(the original). McAvoy got his start on TV as well. I love James McAvoy but Freeman is a much better choice for Bilbo but only if he can still be Watson. Sherlock is so fantastic.

      • Snsetblaze

        While Elijah Wood was not a huge Hollywood star when LOTR came out, he did have a huge resume. I can remember watching him as a young kid opposite McCauley Culkin in Good Son, North, Huck Finn …

      • BlackIrish4094

        @Tipsy, not an ensemble piece? Yo do know Bilbo travels with Gandalf and a bunch of dwarves for much of the book right? I like this guy, think he could be good. If Peter Jackson gives this guy the thumbs up then he’s ok with me.

      • ashley

        also @tipsy, have you read the hobbit? bilbo is not a leading man, he is not charismatic, do you remember what he does during the battle of five armies? if anything i think freeman will make bilbo more likeable than he actually is and i support his casting.

      • Katja

        LOL @ ashley. Loved your point about the Battle of Five Armies.

      • Nathan

        Nothing wrong with TV actors, but for every Clooney, there’s also a David Caruso, Shelley Long, Eva Longoria and the entire cast of Friends, just sayin.

      • Josh

        WHOA! That cast of friends comment was unnecessary! Matthew Perry was the lead in the single greatest television show of all-time, and was brilliant, in Studio 60…

        And Freeman is actually the perfect fit. He looks close enough to Ian Holm to pull this off, and he’s talented.

      • Maurantonio

        OH MY GOSH!!! How scary!!I don’t even want to think about how bad that next gas bill will be either, but cdseionring what could have been lost if it had exploded it will seem like a small price to pay.I’m so glad it all turned out ok!!

    • Sarah

      I love Martin Freeman and think he would both compliment Ian Holm’s performance, and rejuvenate it for a younger character.

      • Chris

        me too. LOVE martin freeman in all of his stuff! What a great actor

    • Amy

      Shoot, I just want the movie made. Let’s go already.

  • Zoe

    LOVE Freeman. I think he’d be great! James McAvoy? Actually, I’m getting a little tired of seeing him all over the place. Freeman would be a much fresher choice.

    • chelsea

      All over the place? McAvoy hasn’t had a big movie in awhile now (take it from me, I love him). I do like Martin Freeman though (TIM!) and wouldn’t mind him in the role.

  • Laura

    I would love for Martin Freeman to get the role. It would be great for his career and the franchise as well. He totally looks like a Hobbit.

    • tipsy

      As good for his career as LOTR was for Wood and Astin? yep. Convention circuits and cartoon voiceovers.

      • Dave

        Eternal Sunshine? Dope.

      • tipsy

        @Dave, Ethernal Sunshine was in 2004. It`s 2010.

      • Daisy

        Actually, all the stars of Lord of the Rings (Orlando Bloom aside) knew that they probably wouldn’t get much of a career boost out of it, or get very much money (they didn’t). They did it because they knew it was the chance of a lifetime. Plus, they DID become huge stars, and the movie is remembered as one of the best of all time.

      • TolkienFanCarl

        What these actors made of their careers after LOTR was their own business. I agree with Daisy-this movie made them immortal.

    • Alan

      He totally looks like a Hobbit!

      • tipsy

        So? Johnny Depp looks nothing like Jack Sparrow but he created an iconic character. I`m sorry but I don`t get the excitement over Freeman casting because I know we are not in for something as special as Depp was in POTC and RDJ was in IM. Freeman probably won`t suck. He`ll be servicable and let Jackson be the star of the movie as the director. Just wait and see. Direction will upstage him like it upstaged his LOTR predecessors not just because Jackson is a talent but because Freeman has no strength of presence.

    • Philly Girl

      Me too! Go Martin!

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  • rebecca

    He is amazing as Watson in Sherlock!! that is such an amazing show!!

    • Desmo

      Soooooo good!

    • Anna

      I agree! Amazing!

  • Michelle

    I could get behind this. And if he could do both projects, why not?

  • Zach

    I’m all for it. Love Martin Freeman and think he has a definite Bilbo-esque quality to him. Brilliant, unexpected casting choice.

    • tipsy

      Unexpected choice? Freeman PR was all over the Internet pimping Freeman through planted Internet posters.

      • LM

        Martin Freeman has been one the most popular fan choices for Bilbo since the very beginning – in fact, at least among LOTR fanatics, he was THE most popular choice. So this is very good news for the fans. I hope they can make this happen!

      • tipsy

        @LM, I don`t think that fans discovered him or influenced Jackson to cast him. More likely, the film-makers had him in mind and planted the idea through their sites (such as TORN) and big sites such as AICN, Imdb,etc.

      • LM

        @tipsy, That may be. But I am a long-time TORn reader, and all I know is that years ago, before they even officially announced that The Hobbit movies would be made, the webmasters and head writers at TORN were already commenting in their posts that their personal favorite pick for Bilbo was Martin Freeman – largely because of his close physical resemblance to Ian Holm, but also because he’s a great actor. And the fans (as in long-time registered users) agreed. I know Freeman has long been my top choice too, so take that for what you will.

      • tipsy

        @LM, i`m suspicious because Freeman isn`t a known name. maybe in Britain and Commonwealth he is but not Stateside. Therefore, I am totally suspicious of whether Freeman support was spontanious, fan-induced one. It seems to me that it was planted either by Freeman`s PR or by people close to the production ahead of the production. Rumours were rampant that the Hobbit would be made and Freeman auditioned for George Harvey role in TLB but didn`t get it. So there`s another connection. It wasn`t spontanious but planned and planted. I`m sure that other actor`s PR teams did the same but Freeman got the best response.

      • South

        >i>i`m suspicious because Freeman isn`t a known name. maybe in Britain and Commonwealth he is but not Stateside. Therefore, I am totally suspicious of whether Freeman support was spontanious, fan-induced one.

        Because, er, we’re so small and backward and can’t possible have an opinion worth anything up against the might of the whole of “Stateside”?

        *rolls eyes*

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  • Otter

    Perfect casting! I hope they can make this work. Freeman is outstanding as Watson on “Sherlock”, and I think he’d be extraordinary as Bilbo.

  • Patrick

    Freeman would make a great Bilbo, I hope they can work it out with his BBC schedule, because he also makes a great Watson :)

  • chelsea

    Aww, I loved Freeman as Tim aka the original Jim Halpert. Never thought of him for this role, but he’d work. I am such a McAvoy fangirl though, I’d love for it to be him.

    • chelsea

      Yes, responding to my own post, but the more I think about it, it should be Freeman over McAvoy. This would be career defining for Freeman, James McAvoy doesn’t need the career bump already being a pretty big star and having the new X-Men movie coming up where he’s the lead.

      • tipsy

        Who says that Freeman is going to get a career bump form this? Elijah Wood got none. Sean Astin got none. Billy Boyd got none. Orlando Bloom got it due to his pretty face but has faded by now. Viggo Mortensen, Ian Mckellen and Cate Blanchett are exacetly where they were before LOTR – critically acclaimed character actors without star power. None of them became the post-POTC Depp aka biggest movie star in the world. Liv Tyler got Givenchy contract and that`s what she`s most famous now. That third woman from the movie got zero bump and disappeared. Dom Monaghan got Lost gig and than lost it (no pun intended). Overall, other franchises seem to be more generous at proving career bumps than LOTR. I would count on freeman going back to TV after The Hobbit ends its run. McAvoy, OTOH, is a major potential, Hobbit or no Hobbit. he`ll get far.

      • chelsea

        You don’t need to tell me about McAvoy, I already said how much I love him. He has legend written all over him and will be a big star if he does Hobbit or not. I’m not saying Freeman would become the next big thing if he got this role, but you have to admit it would elevate his career to have the LEAD in such a big movie.

      • tipsy

        @ chelsea, career gets elevated if the actor shows he or she is up to the task. many a career ended or faded because someone bit more than they could swallow. Orlando Bloom tanked KoH and Elisabethtown and now is reduced to small roles in Paul WS Anderson movie. from Jackson and Scott to PWSA is quite a career nosedive. Elijah Wood didn`t impress anyone with his leading man prowess (or lack thereof) so his post-LOTR career didn`t see big offers and now he`s mostly voicing cartoons (and not even Pixar ones). I`m just saying that big movie does not necessarily lead to a big career.

      • chelsea

        I get what you’re saying. I was just saying that Freeman would become more of a name (he would, IMO) if he got this part. James McAvoy on the other hand would be just as big a star regardless if he does this movie or not.

      • tipsy

        @chelsea, I don`t think Freeman would become a name. I don`t feel the guy at all. Mark Hamilldom is what he will get post-The Hobbit if he indeed gets the part. I honestly can think of other actors who could play Bilbo.

      • Desmo

        God tipsy why are you so against Freeman?

      • California

        Tipsy has a serious hard on for Johnny Depp and James McAvoy.

        And, um, btw, Johnny Depp was a HUGE star prior to POTC. Not sure why you are counting that as some sort of huge platform. Now the character of Jack Sparrow? *that* certainly sky rocketted after the movie came out.

      • A-K87

        @tipsy, who said that Freeman wants to be the next Depp? Freeman trained at The Central School Of Speech and Drama (Lynn Redgrave, Laurence Olivier, Dame Judi Dench) and I think that he would rather be remembered as an actor rather than a ‘huge movie star’.

  • Mrs. Frisby

    Wasn’t he also in Love Actually and Hot Fuzz? I think he’ll be great as Bilbo.

  • donna marie

    Martin Freeman would be perfect for the role. Hope he does it. Anyone in doubt should watch him in the fantastic Sherlock series that will soon air over here.

    • tipsy

      Yes, we watch it and he is decent supporting player. Bilbo is the lead. Freeman is not the leading man material. HGTG is a major proof for that.

      • Kevin

        Come on! You can’t blame HGTG’s short-comings on Freeman… the movie was poorly written and directed, not his fault.

      • tipsy

        @Kevin, Freeman did nothing with the role and he was boring to watch. Actors with charisma don`t have to utter a word, one cannot take their eyes off them. Freeman is dull. I`m sorry that The Hobbit team got so infatuated with him but he`s boring in big doses. Alright support but crappy lead.

      • Alan

        Huh? I’m confused about why the star of the Hobbit has have only Brad Pitt-level stardom. What massive leading man roles did any of the original LOTR stars have before LOTR. Please advise me.

      • Kiuta

        You people are just called him boring because of his role as Tim on the Office which was MEANT to be that way. He is an actor you know and if his role calls for excitement, I’m sure he’ll bring it.

      • tipsy

        @Alan, they didn`t have massive leading roles before LOTR but LOTR was expected to change that and it didn`t. My point is that Freeman has never been a leading man let alone massive so why people go “oh, it`ll boost his chareer while so-and-so doesn`t need The Hobbit cause his career is already shooting up” or something. besides, I doubt he is so irreplacable that they cnanot find another actor if he refuses or can`t work out the TV contract. Movie history is made of actors who weren`t the first choice. I`m sure that The Hobbit will be fine without Freeman.

      • A-K87

        I really don’t think tipsy has read the Hobbit!!! Charisma?? What the hell? Do you know this character?

      • Aleksandr

        I am not taking ciderts from Kazakhstan or any body else. My point is that it doesn’t make a big difference concerning that he isefbbbf a nice person, talented guy, whatever he is Russian, Jewish or Kazakh, I enjoyed having conversation with him and I had a good time. I don’t want to get chauvinistic in this conversation like some people want to point it out (by the way, note that I wrote ALL listed nationalities with Capital letters )

  • Jeanne

    I love McAvoy but he’s far too pretty to be a Hobbit. Freeman is a perfect choice.

  • Kevin

    I think Freeman would be perfect. McAvoy, not so much (have yet to be impressed by him… even his performance in Last King of Scotland was pretty bland).

    • chelsea

      McAvoy has been pretty close to perfection in every performance I’ve ever seen him in.

      • tipsy

        Yeah, I love him since Children of Dune. It was obvious from that series that he would go places. But I knew he wasn`t considered for the role when it was revealed that GDT wants Cruise for ATMOM and that Universal wants McAvoy. I figured that GDT didn`t like him and I recall that he said that he and jackson thought of the same actor to play Bilbo right away. So it meant McAvoy wasn`t it. :(

  • bort

    Tipsy: I’m not clear. What’s your opinion of Martin Freeman? Could you state it eight or thirty-seven more times?

    • tipsy

      I don`t like him and I don`t like this choice. I love the Hobbit book. he is not Bilbo. I`m not seeing the movies if he is cast. I`m sorry but I find him grating. I`ve seen him in HGTG, Love Actually,an episode of The Office. Can`t watch him in a 3 hours long movie, sorry.

      • Kevin

        I’m sure Peter Jackson will miss your $10 dollars. And besides, we all know that once McAvoy pulls his junk out of your @ss that you’re going to see the movie anyway, so get off of your high horse.

    • meb

      Yeah, I’m not sure it’s clear. Could you please clarify it for us Tipsy?

      • tipsy

        Lolololol. I appreciate good sense of humor and you got one. Plus, attention is on me so I`m flattered. :)

        Anyway, Freeman must keep Sherlock with The Hobbit cause he`ll go back to TV. Movie stardom is not happening. he ain`t R-Pattz, lmao. :)

    • Alex


    • Desmo

      Haha spot on.

    • Katja

      LOL. Seriously.

  • Brian

    Freeman is an INSPIRED choice for Bilbo. Works perfectly. I hope he gets it.

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