The Hard Road to 'The Hobbit'
With billions in box office under his belt and an armful of Oscars, "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth -- but bringing Bilbo Baggins to the big screen was tougher than wrestling the ring from Gollum.
On a sloping slab of artificial woodland surrounded by enormous green screens stands an old wizard and 13 elaborately bearded dwarves. Bilbo Baggins -- played by Martin Freeman, known to American audiences as Watson in the BBC's Sherlock and, before that, the lovelorn salesman in Ricky Gervais' original The Office -- eavesdrops from behind a tree as dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) scornfully denounces him for deserting his comrades in arms. "We will not be seeing our hobbit again," sneers Thorin at Gandalf (Ian McKellen). "He is long gone." At an imposing 6-foot-2, Armitage doesn't look especially dwarfish, but it's only late July. By Dec. 14, when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey unfolds on the big screen, Armitage and the others will look appropriately small thanks to a bag of old and new cinematic tricks.
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