The bad news: Despite efforts to reconcile with actors’ unions in New Zealand and Australia, problems remain unresolved. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have issued a joint statement saying Warner Bros.‚Äô faith in the New Zealand industry has been undermined, and that the studio is wary of spending $500m in the country most associated with Middle Earth.
‚ÄúThe damage inflicted on our film industry by [the actors unions] is long since done,‚Äù and resolution of the union issue now ‚Äúdoes nothing to help the film stay in New Zealand.‚Äù
“Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.‚Äù
The good news is that casting proceeds unabated. Even as these labor disputes threaten the involvement of thousands of New Zealanders who might have populated The Hobbit, Jackson has been filling his lead actors:
- Martin Freeman….. Bilbo Baggins
- Richard Armitage….. Thorin Oakenshield
- Aidan Turner….. Kili
- Rob Kazinsky….. Fili
- Graham McTavish….. Dwalin
- John Callen….. Oin
- Stephen Hunter….. Bombur
- Mark Hadlow….. Dori
- Peter Hambleton….. Gloin
Deadline reports that other roles could be waiting for Stephen Fry, Saoirse Ronan, James Nesbitt and David Tennant. Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis will most likely return Gandalf and Gollum. Aiden Turner is a possibility as the Elf King, and Bill Nighy might supply the voice of the dragon Smaug.
Peter Jackson talks about his casting decisions after the cut.
Jackson praises Martin Freeman: “Despite the various rumors and speculation surround this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us. 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.”
As for Armitage, Jackson says: “Richard is one of the most exciting and dynamic actors working on screen today and we know he is going to make an amazing Thorin Oakenshield. We cannot wait to start this adventure with him and feel very lucky that one of the most beloved characters in Middle Earth is in such good hands.”
Regarding Turner and Kazinsky, Jackson says: “Rob is an extremely talented young actor with a huge career in front of him. I’m thrilled that he has agreed to take on the role of Fili. Besides his talent as an actor, Rob is also a champion sword fighter and I’m looking forward to seeing the damage he can do to a horde of marauding Goblins … Aidan is a wonderfully gifted young actor who hails from Ireland. I’m sure he will bring enormous heart and humor to the role of Kili.”
“Graham is a terrific actor, with a great depth of experience, which I know he will bring to the role of Dwalin. I have worked with Mark Hadlow on many projects, he is a fantastic actor…I am also proud to annoucne the casting of New Zealand actors as Peter Hambleton, John Callen and Stephen Hunter. Fran and I know that they will bring great depth and talent to our Company of Dwarves.”