A Long Journey Began: Gandalf the Grey and Bilbo Baggins revealed

Finally, after an extended time – we are beginning to see the images from the set of The Hobbit. Warner Bros. are being understandably coy in releasing any extensive images (steadily releasing small parts of the whole). 5 of the Dwarves have now been released and the designs and make up work is extensive. Two characters however that required the least amount of attention are two old friends, together at the start of a strange old adventure that will ultimately consume all of Middle Earth. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf the Grey (one day to be Gandalf the White) have both been released by WB.

These are no surprise. The casting of Freeman was a nigh unquestionable piece of casting. He looks to have populated the character perfectly, originally played as his older self in LOTR by Ian Holm. It is with a steady heart that fans of LOTR have taken Freeman on board and these pictures confirm a harmless and fairly seamless continuation of the story of the most famous resident of Bag End.

McKellen of course reprises his role as Gandalf the Grey and WB have offered up a suitably relaxed image of the old wizard reclining at the base of some old tree. The question is this, while mainstay characters originally developed in the original LOTR films remain simple and conscise in appearance – how, when Jackson and his costume and make up department know that the globe will be watching, will they maintain a steady and even hand in the Dwarf design? All too easily expectation can lead to over working basic concepts. Will we see an overworked principle cast as SW I, II and III? Hard to say at this stage – but here is Dori, Nori and Ori and Oin and Gloin in full uniform. You judge….

Photos from Bagend: Filming for the Hobbit begins….

Since 1937 it is a book that has captured the imaginations of millions and introduced literary characters such as Bilbo Baggins, Smaug, Thorin Oakenshield and Gandalf. It spawned a broader, darker tome named The Lord of the Rings and in the early 21st Century it represented the basis for a set of films that were and are the epitomy of seamless storytelling and cinema and a benchmark in special effects technology making an audience forget that Middle Earth doesn’t exist. It revolutionised the tourist trade of an entire nation off the coast of Australia and and made JRR Tolkien and Peter Jackson household names.

I am very pleased to announce that initial filming on The Hobbit: There and Back Again has begun and that the cast and crew have already begun to express their genuine happiness at the beginning of what has been, at times, a project that may never have seen the light of day. Following disputes over royalties, threatened film studios, being potentially helmed by two genius directors, a union dispute, a major operation and an Earthquake finally, Bilbo Baggin’s journey has begun again for an entirely new generation. Collected below are the first photos to be sent from the set, including an old cast member, a new cast member and everyone’s favourite Director.


A very different Peter Jackson walks in to Bagend (Bilbo’s home in Hobbiton – still intact from the first film) after a long road back to the Director’s chair.


Peter Jackson at the seat he sat at so many years before at the beginning of the production of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (below).



…. and finally, the star Ian McKellan (Gandalf the Grey) posted the photo below (with James Nesbitt) from rehearsals with the caption ‘Bofur and Gandalf at our first Rehearsal.’


Beyond the Bunker will try to keep pace with the production as it goes on and bring you any major highlights over the next year and a half of filming before the release of the first installment some time in 2012 (hopefully Christmas).
Jackson’s assistant, Matt Dravitszki, told New Zealand’s Sunday Star-Times that production will last through 2012.
“We will be filming in our studios in Miramar, [Stone Street Studios at] Wellington, and in locations throughout New Zealand,” he said.

McKellen provided more specifics, writing that he found himself “in various places which are all the same place.”
“I was on flat land the Maori called Whataitai until renamed in 1872, Miramar, or ‘Behold the Sea,’ which is indeed nearby,” he wrote on his blog. “I was in Stone Street Studios in the heart of a modern suburb, with some light industry.

The first installment of “The Hobbit” is expected in December 2012, and the second will be released in 2013. According to online sources New Line Cinema has reportedly registered the following two titles:

The Hobbit: There and Back Again and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

… and so a very much intended and yet slightly unexpected journey begins. We’ll keep you posted as it goes.

The Hobbit: The Return of the Characters

The lighter (and earlier) chapter in the Middle Earth canon sees a Middle Earth unfettered by gigantic all-seeing eyes and roaming armies felling everything they find in their path. Fundamentally, much like the sequel Lord of the Rings, its a story about an individual, aided (or in this case forced) on a great and long journey. Both stories begin with one central character, a Hobbit. And in both one can be found in Hobbiton of the Shire.

Bilbo Baggins will of course be making a return. Obviously much younger this time around – Bilbo will be following the journey spoken of in the later Lord of the Rings films, There and Back Again – which is finished off by his nephew, Frodo having completed his own quest. Bilbo however, has a slightly merrier time of it – never being weighed down by the ring (though the films will likely make more of it) and leading a band of Dwarves on a quest. In the position of thief, and hurried along by his friend Gandalf – Bilbo is the first in living memory to travel out of the shire and have an adventure. Proper boy’s own stuff. Hooray!!

Bilbo will be played by Martin Freeman. Previously played by Ian Holm, Freeman was at pains to explain that he ‘could think of much better choices’ to play Bilbo Baggins and that while his Bilbo will share many traits with Holm he cannot hope to imitate him. Freeman it seems to occupies the state of being the go-to guy for fulfilling famous English literary characters; playing Arthur Dent in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Watson to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in the recent TV series and now Bilbo Baggins.

Gandalf will make a return though in this case is only present in the book at the beginning – journeying with the Dwarves and Bilbo only a short way. Given Peter Jackson’s adherence to the book in the past, we should expect a similar set of events. While some liberties were taken in the storyline of the original LOTR films its unlikely that Jackson would have Gandalf continue on with them beyond Mirkwood or else alter the content of the rest of the book. The rest hinges on a bunch of short little fellers getting themselves into a whole bunch of scrapes so a gangly grey wizard’d be slightly out of place. On top of which, Gandalf’d tell them not to do at least half the things they try. Where’s the fun in that?

Ian McKellen will be reclaiming the character of Gandalf the Grey, signed and confirmed with the previous Director Guillermo Del Toro. “Yes, it’s true,” he said. “I spoke to Guillermo in the very room that Peter Jackson offered me the part and he confirmed that I would be reprising the role. Obviously, it’s not a part that you turn down, I loved playing Gandalf.” At the time he had little inclination as to how it would all be palyed out but somewhere in New Zealand there is a full script with Ian McKellen’s name on it, if not in the hand of the man himself. We at Beyond the Bunker couldn’t be any happier that McKellen has reprised the role – I mean, who else can play Gandalf?

Galadriel and the actress who played her, Cate Blanchett will be reprising the role as well as Christopher Lee as Saruman. Saruman’s presence in the Hobbit is either extremely minor or non-existent and the beardy nemesis of Gandalf will likely be a friendly cameo role in Gandalf’s time away from the Hobbit.

But a central story amongst all the other tall tales in the journey of the Hobbit is that of the character that launches the events of Lord of the Rings. The original ring bearer is due to come into conflict with a certain Mr Bilbo in the darkened pools under middle Earth. Smeagol and Bilbo meet in a neat moment in a darkened cave in the book and the conflict is slight and brief – if a little unnerving. More is likely to be made of this character given the hindsight of both JRR Tolkien’s follow up and the scale of the effect caused by this small event – so it’ll be interesting to see how they get on with that….

Reprising the role (more efficiently than ever before) will be Andy Serkis – who needs no introduction following the success of the previous films. Everyone’s favourite CGI character, Serkis will be appearing in Jackson and Spielberg’s Tintin motion capture movie which will have been an excellent training ground for Serkis and the new real-time motion capture technology. When asked if he was prepared to face the physical rigours of playing everyone’s prehistoric chav – Serkis said ‘he’s an amazing character to play.. I’m relishing the thought actually.’

It was made clear early on that anyone who could come back would come back – however, while Saruman is perhaps an expected choice as a cameo one other character from the original films might be making an appearance – played by the original actor. Keep your eyes on Beyond the Bunker to find out what the rumours are – regarding old characters and new.