New Line Announces <i>Hobbit</i> Cast, Confirms Martin Freeman As Bilbo

New Line Cinema has announced part of the cast of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, confirming Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in the two-movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's famed fantasy novel.

"Despite the various rumors and speculation surrounding this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us,” Jackson said in the press release. “There are a few times in your career when you come across an actor who you know was born to play a role, but that was the case as soon as I met Martin. He is intelligent, funny, surprising and brave -- exactly like Bilbo, and I feel incredibly proud to be able to announce that he is our Hobbit.”

Freeman (The Office, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) will be joined by a company of dwarves composed, in part, of: Richard Armitage (MI-5, Captain America: The First Avenger) as Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the dwarves; Aiden Turner (Being Human) and Rob Kazinsky (EastEnders) as Thorin's nephews Kili and Fili; Graham McTavish (Secretariat, 24) as Dwalin; John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury) as Oin; Stephen Hunter (All Saints) as Bombur; Mark Hadlow (King Kong) as Dori; and Peter Hambleton (The Strip) as Gloin.

That's only eight dwarves, so expect five more names to fill out Thorin's company. The press release also doesn't mention Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis, who are expected to reprise their Lord of the Rings roles as Gandalf and Gollum. Absent, too, is Hugo Weaving as Elrond, as well as characters like Beorn and Bard the Bowman. Presumably we'll see more announcements in the weeks to come.

Casting, however, may be the least of The Hobbit's worries Although the $400-million project finally received a greenlight last week, Warner Bros. is still threatening to move production out of New Zealand following a union boycott.

Published in 1937, The Hobbit follows the home-loving halfling Bilbo Baggins, who joins a band of dwarves in a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and its fabled treasure from the dragon Smaug.

The two films are set to begin production in February for release in December 2012 and December 2013.

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