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Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit': What You Need to Know

Peter Jackson
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Five facts on the long-gestating project, which has finally kicked off production.

Production is finally underway on Peter Jackson's The Hobbit – and THR has the scoop on the long-gestating project:

1. It’s been in the works for 14 years!  Jackson, the Oscar-winning director of the three Lord of the Rings movies, first presented the idea to adapt JRR Tolkien's classic in 1997. In 2005, he filed suit against New Line Cinemas, claiming he had lost revenue from merchandising, video, and computer games releases associated with The Fellowship of the Ring and was no longer attached to The Hobbit. Three years later, director Guillermo del Toro signed on but dropped out in May 2010 due to scheduling conflicts. Jackson was confirmed again as director in October 2010, but union disputes in New Zealand threatened to relocate filming to Europe. In January, Jackson underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer, delaying shooting further. At a press conference last month, the film's star, Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo Baggins, joked about the trials it has faced: "There are some bits of bad luck associated with it." On March 21, it was announced that shooting had begun in Wellington, New Zealand. Jackson also posted two images of himself on his Facebook page hanging out on set.    2. Most of the Rings cast is returning. Actors Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, and Andy Serkis are reprising their roles from Rings in the prequel, which centers on Bilbo (Freeman) finding the supernatural ring and passing it on to his nephew, Frodo (Wood).   3. The movies will be shot in digital 3-D. Working on the films: Production designer Dan Hennah, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, composer Howard Shore and makeup and hair designer Peter King. Costumes are being designed by Ann Maskrey and Richard Taylor.   4. The movies already have tentative titles. The movies, which are being jointly produced by New Line Cinema and MGM, are rumored to be titled There and Back Again  and The Hobbit: An/The Unexpected Journey, reports MTV. The first of the two movies is planned for a December 2012 release and the second is expected a year later.   5. The two films are said to be worth more than $1 billion to the N.Z. economy. The New Zealand government is providing incentives and tax breaks worth around $100 million to the shoot.