The Fellowship Of <i>The Hobbit</i>

It may have taken a while, but The Hobbit is ready to take movie-goers back on an adventure through Middle Earth once more. To celebrate the occasion, the cast made its first official public appearance together in Wellington, New Zealand, for a press conference and photo opportunity.

The Dominion Post has a video of the press conference where Martin Freeman, who plays the Hobbit in question Bilbo Baggins, headed up the session with cast mates James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage, William Kircher, Peter Hambleton, John Callen, Jed Brophy and Mark Hadlow. Director Peter Jackson was unfortunately unable to attend. The filmmaker was hospitalized last month after suffering a perforated ulcer, and although he was discharged last week, he remains at home recovering. He did, however, offer apologies for his absence.

"I'd love to be with you all this morning, but I'm currently under a medical form of house arrest to prevent me from overdoing it, until fully recovered from my recent operation. I'll be jumping back into it very soon," he said in a statement. "We take casting very seriously on every film we make, and we couldn't be more delighted with the group of wonderful actors we have gathered here. Those of you who are familiar with The Hobbit will know the importance of the comradeship between Bilbo and each of his 13 dwarf adventurers. I couldn't be more excited about working with these actors, and the others soon to join us. I'm feeling these movies are going to be something very special."

Although previously plagued with delays, including the departure of original director Guillermo del Toro, within the last few months, the film has finally headed into the fast track with the signing of Freeman for the lead and confirmations of returning cast of Lord of the Rings, including Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Elijah Wood as Frodo, Andy Serkis as Gollum, and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. The two-part epic is set to begin filming on March 12 for a dual release of December 2012 and December 2013.

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