Martin Freeman to play Bilbo Baggins in `The Hobbit`

Los Angeles: British actor Martin Freeman has bagged the lead role of Bilbo Baggins in `The Hobbit`, Peter Jackson`s two-part prequel to `The Lord of the Rings`.

Freeman, who shot to fame with TV drama `The Office` and also starred in movies like `Love Actually` and `Shaun of the Dead`, was always the priority for the role in the JRR Tolkien`s book adaptation, the Hollywood Reporter said.

The actor`s name was doing the rounds for months for the fantasy film, which was delayed because of union disputes between Jackson and the actors` union NZ Equity.

Veteran actor Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf in the `Ring` franchise and Andy Serkis as Gollum are expected to return for `The Hobbit` too.

Tolkien`s fantasy novel for children, first published in 1937, is set in a time "between the Dawn of Farie and the Dominion of Men" and revolves around the journey of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug.

Bilbo`s quest takes him to different places and tests his wit and common sense and finally helps him in his personal growth.

Apart from Freeman, New Line has also roped in other actors, who will play key roles as part of the Company of Dwarves.

Richard Armitage will play Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the Company of Dwarves while Aidan Turner and Rob Kazinsky will play Kili and Fili, respectively.

The remaining dwarves will be Graham McTavish, John Callen, Stephen Hunter, Mark Hadlow and Peter Hambleton. Jackson has also written the script with Guillermo del Toro, who abandoned the project because of the delays.

Jackson is trying to keep the film in New Zealand after the actor`s union lifted its boycott of the film but Warner Bros has made it clear that it has already disrupted their plans to shoot the USD 500 million film in the country, which will be a huge loss for the industry there.

PTI

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