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'Hobbit' director Peter Jackson talks about casting a 'heartthrob' dwarf (Exclusive)

Richard-ArmitageImage Credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage.comIt’s been a long time coming, but there was finally cause for rejoicing in Middle-earth last week when director Peter Jackson announced he’d cast several key roles in his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novel, The Hobbit. The casting of Martin Freeman of the UK Office fame as Bilbo Baggins was widely expected, but some Tolkien fans were surprised and slightly befuddled to see English actor Richard Armitage, best known for the BBC series MI-5, cast as Thorin Oakenshield, the gruff leader of a company of dwarves. What was Jackson doing hiring a hunky actor to play a character most often depicted in illustrations — and in the 1977 animated Hobbit movie — as a squat, crabby, Wilford Brimley-ish old dwarf with a long white beard? In an interview (after the jump), Jackson tells EW the choice is actually right in line with the casting of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. READ FULL STORY

Peter Jackson vents his frustration over the bitter 'Hobbit' labor dispute: 'I'm out of my depth.'

Peter Jackson has staged some epic, humdinger battles on-screen, but the battle royale taking place off-screen over The Hobbit — with actors’ unions feuding with the production and Warner Bros. threatening to relocate filming out of New Zealand — clearly has left him deeply exasperated. In an interview with a New Zealand television reporter (see part of the interview embedded below), the director vents his frustration at the ongoing labor dispute, which is just the latest in a series of difficult hurdles he has had to overcome to bring The Hobbit to the screen.

Appearing with co-writer Philippa Boyens on a soundstage built for The Hobbit, he frets that the unions’ boycott — which he says had “no validity” — has done great harm to the reputation of the New Zealand film industry, so much so that he doesn’t know how he can persuade Warner Bros. that it should spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make the two Hobbit films there. “I don’t know what to say,” he says. “This is where I’m out of my depth … I can talk my way around the movie. But to tell the studio why investing $500 million in our country is a good idea when they’ve just seen the disgusting, frivolous action that’s happened … I literally don’t know what to say to them.” Taking aim at Helen Kelly, the president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, who has been critical of his handling of the dispute, Jackson’s anger boils over: “How dare you. You are choosing an Australian union over the workers of our country. Stuff her. I don’t care what the hell she says.”

READ FULL STORY

Will 'The Hobbit' finally turn Martin Freeman into a stateside star?

martin-freemanImage Credit: Jon Furniss/WireImage.comGood gravy, I really hope so. As Tim on the original Office, Freeman’s flustered charms endeared him to audiences, if not his beloved Dawn. I know, I know, we all love John Krasinski very much, but Freeman pioneered the sheepish glances to the camera that make the Tim/Jim character so connected to the audience. He followed up that role with the equally smitten John, the porn stand-in, in Love Actually.

His other major role was as Arthur Dent in the 2005 adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was sort of a dud, although Freeman continued to be Adorable British Guy, At Your Service. Currently, he’s staring as Watson in the dazzling BBC reboot of Sherlock Holmes, which airs on PBS starting this very Sunday: READ FULL STORY

'The Hobbit': Martin Freeman to play Bilbo Baggins; other roles also cast

Movie fans, nerds of all stripes, and aficionados of small, furry-footed hominids, take heed! The cast of director Peter Jackson’s long-awaited, much-delayed, crazily anticipated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic The Hobbit is finally officially taking shape! As EW predicted, English actor Martin Freeman, best known for his deadpan portrayal of cubicle drone Tim Canterbury in the original BBC version of The Office as well as the films Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Hot Fuzz, will play the Hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins, who is reluctantly recruited by Gandalf the Wizard and a company of Dwarves to join in a dangerous quest for a dragon’s treasure. “Despite the various rumors and speculation surrounding this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us,” Jackson said in a statement, calling Freeman “intelligent, funny, surprising, and brave — exactly like Bilbo.” Jackson also announced that Richard Armitage, who has starred in the British TV series MI-5, will play the leader of the company of Dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield, while Irish actor Aidan Turner  and English actor Rob Kazinsky will play the Dwarves Fili and Kili. Rounding out the cohort of Dwarves thus far will be Graham McTavish (24) as Dwalin; John Callen (TV’s Power Rangers Jungle Fury) as Oin; Stephen Hunter (TV’s All Saints) as Bombur; Mark Hadlow (King Kong) as Dori; and Peter Hambleton (TV’s The Strip) as Gloin.

There you have it, Middle-earthlings. Now Jackson just needs to get past the sticky labor-union issues and start shooting this thing. (Well, after casting Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Ori, Nori, Balin, Beorn, Bard, and all the other roles, of course.) What do you think? After all these endless months of build-up, can you get any more amped for The Hobbit? Is Freeman the Bilbo of your dreams? Or did you imagine someone else putting on the ring?

Read more:
‘The Hobbit’ could still exit NZ, reads New Line statement
‘The Hobbit’ will shoot in New Zealand after all. Well, maybe. Hopefully. We’ll see.
Peter Jackson officially to direct ‘The Hobbit’
‘Hobbit’ casting: Martin Freeman could still play Bilbo Baggins

'The Hobbit' will shoot in New Zealand after all. Well, maybe. Hopefully. We'll see.

Peter-Jackson-GandalfImage Credit: Sylvain Gaboury/PR PhotosSome day, someone is going to make a movie about the attempt to make a movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, but instead of wizards and swordplay and stirring derring-do, it’ll be filled with lawyers and picket signs and angry e-mails. Today alone, director Peter Jackson and producing-and-life partner Fran Walsh reportedly issued a blistering statement condemning the local New Zealand actors’ union, NZ Actors’ Equity, which last month had called on fellow international actors unions (including SAG) to boycott The Hobbit to pressure the production for a new contract for local actors. Jackson and Walsh called the union leadership “gutless” and “self-centered,” and noted ominously that next week execs from Warner Bros. “are coming down to NZ to make arrangements to move the production off-shore.”

Within hours of that statement, NZ Actors’ Equity, along with the larger Screen Production and Development Association, issued their own statement announcing that they would not boycott The Hobbit, and they were imploring all other actors unions to follow suit.

Which would be great news, if the first line of Jackson and Walsh’s earlier statement did not start with this declaration: “The lifting of the blacklist [i.e. boycott] on The Hobbit does nothing to help the films stay in New Zealand.”

READ FULL STORY

'The Hobbit' in 3-D: Good idea? Or terrible idea?

Peter-JacksonImage Credit: Fotonoticias/WireImage.comWe all knew that The Hobbit was going to be made eventually. Destiny (and the promise of money bins filled with box-office cash) demanded it. But the long-expected news that Peter Jackson will direct the Hobbit duology comes with a new wrinkle: The films will be shot in 3-D. This would be incredible news … if we had heard it nine months ago, when Avatar was still in theaters. But barely a year post-Na’vi, 3-D has been applied to seemingly every new blockbuster film with incredibly mixed results. So it’s worth asking: Will 3-D ruin The Hobbit for you?

Since the movies will actually be shot in the 3-D format, they’re already one step up from the mediocre post-production conversions seen in Clash of the Titans, Alice in Wonderland, and Piranha 3D. Also, Peter Jackson is a brilliant filmmaker. (Sure, sure, Lovely Bones, but nobody’s perfect.) And Jackson’s Middle-Earth is such a lush, rich onscreen universe. You could argue that this is exactly the sort of film 3-D was created for.

You could also argue that 3-D was created for one thing: a justification for increased ticket prices. Speaking as someone who just paid $15 for one ticket to Jackass 3D, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be willing to fork over huge wads of cash in return for murky visuals and a migraine headache. I’m still excited about upcoming 3-D bonanzas like Tron Legacy, but am I the only one who’s actually more excited about the next Harry Potter now that it’s back in old-fashioned 2-D? Vote and be counted, after the jump. READ FULL STORY

Guillermo del Toro really loves 'The Haunted Mansion' and really wants 'The Hobbit' to get made

Guillermo-del-ToroImage Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesAt Comic-Con last week, Guillermo del Toro announced he will produce, co-write, and possibly direct a new feature film based on the Disneyland attraction The Haunted Mansion. But that is just the latest meal stacked high on top of the filmmaker’s already crowded plate: He’s also working on feature films of (deep inhale) Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Slaughterhouse Five, Drood, and At the Mountains of Madness, as well as the vampire literary trilogy he’s co-writing with Chuck Hogan The Strain. (Deep exhale.)

With all those projects now happily humming along, perhaps it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise that Del Toro dropped out of directing The Hobbit in May. Last week at Comic-Con, Del Toro sat down with me and gamely talked about his reasons for leaving that most high profile of projects, as well as his abiding obsession with the Haunted Mansion, and the status of the rest of his coterie of cinema undertakings — including whether we’ll ever get to see Hellboy III. Check it out after the jump: READ FULL STORY

Comic-Con: Guillermo del Toro shares his hopes for 'The Hobbit'

Guillermo-del-ToroImage Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesDuring a Comic-Con panel for the horror film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Guillermo del Toro (who wrote and produced the film) shared his hopes for the long-anticipated big-screen adaptation of The Hobbit, which he recently dropped out of directing. “As a fan, I hope those movies get made,” del Toro told the crowd. “And I hope to God Peter Jackson directs them. They’re beautiful and they’re needed in the world.” The filmmaker said that, in his two years of work prepping for the Hobbit films, “we completely designed 98 percent of the first movie” as well as about half of the second one. The status of the project is currently up in the air, but various reports have suggested that Jackson is strongly considering directing it. For his part, del Toro said he is going to announce a horror film he will direct “very soon” and also expressed his hopes to “do my version of Frankenstein as soon as possible.” He also said that in the next few months he will announce a horror anthology series he plans to produce for cable TV.

Comic-Con: Got a question for [big time celeb]? Tweet it to us!

Comic-con-Peter-JacksonOf the many wondrous things about San Diego Comic-Con — imaginative costumes, drool-inducing glimpses at upcoming movies and TV shows, swag — one of the absolute best begins thusly: “Okay, let’s open it up to questions.” Rarely do fans get such a direct opportunity to interrogate their pop-culture idols, and for those of you who won’t be able to make it to San Diego this week, EW is doing the next best thing.

Both myself and the illustrious Michael Ausiello will be on hand to talk to the cavalcade of famous faces visiting the EW photo studio and video suite at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, and this year, we’re asking you – yes, you! — to tweet us your questions for those actors and directors. So if you want to get in on all the Comic-Con action, follow EW on Twitter (our highly imaginative handle is @EW), and starting tomorrow, I’ll be soliciting tweeted questions for the movies guests of that day. (Mr. Ausiello will be handling questions for TV stars via @michaelausiello.) Be sure to include the hashtag #comicconew, so we can see your questions!

To get an idea of what goes on at our EW video suite, after the jump, check out my three-part interview last year with Peter Jackson about several of his upcoming projects. I should stress that this interview was last year — Guillermo Del Toro was still a year away from dropping out of directing The Hobbit, so Jackson’s answers about that project are during far happier times.  READ FULL STORY

Guillermo del Toro talks 'The Hobbit' and his next project: 'It's a pretty big one'

It’s been weeks since Guillermo del Toro made the shocking decision to walk away from directing the highly anticipated adaptation of The Hobbit (Peter Jackson is now in negotiations to direct) and the Pan’s Labyrinth director says he’s almost over the disappointment. “It’s the biggest heartbreak of my life professionally,” del Toro tells EW. “But at the same time, I’m entirely at peace with it.”  The director will be at Comic-Con in a few weeks to preview Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, a horror film he produced and cowrote, starring Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce. “We’re gonna announce a few things at Comic-Con that are surprises,” teases del Toro. “But I’m probably going to announce my next directing project right after Comic-Con. It’s a pretty big one.” Hmmmm. Could this mean that del Toro’s oft-rumored Frankenstein remake is finally coming to fruition?

What do you think del Toro’s next project should be, PopWatchers? Would you like to see him tackle Frankenstein?

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