The Merry Band Revealed: 13 Dwarves Stride Forth for Adventure!!


Nori (Jed Brophy), Fili (Dean O' Gorman), Dori (Mark Hadlow), Bofur (James Nesbitt), Gloin (Peter Hambleton), Dwalin (Graham McTavish), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), Balin (Ken Stott), Oin (John Callen), Bombur (Stephen Hunter), Bifur (William Kircher), Ori (Adam Brown) and Kili (Aiden Turner)

Thorin Oakenshield stands at the centre of his Merry Band, a set of Dwarves set on a quest many would never face. In response to the reaction to public reveals of theHobbit Warner Bros have revealed the complete Dwarf set. In response to a great many public reedits of the assembled dwarves as they were revealed in sets of of two’s and three, Peter Jackson has released his own collective image of the assembled band. Equipped with weaponry, food packs and instruments they are set on their journey to face Smaug and the Battle of the Five Armies. Not all will return but very few can remember who.

Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage)

Bombur (Stephen Hunter), Bofur (James Nesbitt) and Bifur (William Kircher)


Oin (John Callen) and Gloin (Peter Hambleton)


Balin (Ken Stott) and Dwalin (Graham McTavish)


Fili (Dean O' Gorman) and Kili (Aiden Turner)

Check the rest of our Hobbit coverage of our full breakdown of events in Hobbiton and Middle Earth (Wellington, New Zealand) as things have taken place.

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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 Merry Band: The Band of Dwarves Pt 3

Following a two year wait The Hobbit has now gone into production with Dwarf camp in full swing as the crew and cast prepare for initial shooting. As such Beyond the Bunker.com wants to take a closer look at the production as it happens. Last week was Ken Stott (Balin), Jed Brophy (Nori), Mark Hadlow (Dori) and Adam Brown (Ori) the week before was Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Aidan Turner (Kili), James Nesbitt (Bofur – it turns out), Rob Kazinsky (Fili) and Graham McTavish (Dwalin) we take a look at four more of the assembled Dwarves on the quest against Smaug the dragon and the actors playing them. Pick up your axes, we’re heading back into unfamiliar territory….

Wellington NZ was shaken by another Earthquake a week following the previous more devastating one that claimed at least 160 lives in Christchurch. This will have effected the Dwarf training ground as it was near to Wellington but no cast, crew or associated PR has been created by it which is a refreshingly nice example of a production not jumping on an easy scoop. James Nesbitt (coach), Mark Hadlow (umpire) and Martin Freeman (umpire) will be involved in a charity cricket match to raise funds for the Earthquake appeal. Russell Crow is coaching the opposing team.

James Nesbitt was interviewed briefly about his training so far; “We’ve been here for training, because I’m going to be here for a year so the amount of work and the work we’ll be getting up to means we all have to be fit, you know, and a few of us are getting on a bit, so we’ve been training and horse-riding and doing stunts and all that kind of thing, and then we start.” He also revealed that filming was due to start and members of the cast had arrived in mid January but Peter Jackson’s perforated ulcer had caused delays while the Director got the necessary treatment. It all starts fully in ‘three weeks’ and Nesbitt himself is quoted as not minding the break.

But we have Dwarves still to introduce and its taken considerably longer than expected. Still remaining are two of the older members of the band and brothers one particularly tiresome character that holds up proceedings and is unlikely to be training as hard as the others and a seasoned warrior Dwarf.

Stephen Hunter (Bombur) Unwittingly cast as “the clown” from an early age, Stephen is at home with comedy roles, and has developed a great sense of comic timing from many years on stage. This has resulted in him being cast in dozens of comedic roles in TVC’s, and Television Comedy. Stephen is also reportedly a very strong dramatic actor, scoring leading guest roles in many TV dramas including All Saints (NZ), Mercy Peak and Street Legal (NZ). And he keeps himself sharp for the next role with regular “Meisner” training at The Actors Pulse in Redfern (NZ). This is a significant step up for the occasional TV actor from New Zealand, representing a character of considerable (though not always welcome) influence on the plot and the journey himself. Bombur has the potential to be a hilarious character so Hunter’s grounding in comedy puts him in good stead at playing the complete liability among the troupe.

‘Poor, fat,’ Bombur is frequently shown as having been the last in everything. A comedic character through and through, introducing himself by tumbling into Bifur and Bombur as they arrive at Bag End at the very start of the story and falls into the enchanted river. Bombur sleeps at several key moments of the book. Having fallen into the Enchanted River he sleeps for days, forcing his already frustrated companions to carry him. Understandably edited out in Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo asks after Bombur and is told that he had grown so fat it took six young dwarves to lift him, as he could no longer move from his bed to the couch.

Bombur is simply written and easy to delightfully realise. He’s right up Peter Jackson’s comedic street and we can expect great moments from the fattest Dwarf in the band. He also plays a drum.

William Kircher is a long standing TV and minor film actor from New Zealand going back to the mid-eighties as a constable in a film called Trespasses (NZ) and Worzel Gummidge Down Under (?!) as 2nd Screcrow, Farmer and Stallholder. His career has followed a path of fantasy and literary movie and TV projects such as the Enid Blyton Adventure Series (1996), the Legend of William Tell (1998) and Xena Warrior Princess as a Captain (also 1998). Almost ten years past before he returned for a couple of credits in small locally made films Out of the Blue, Wildfire and Aftershock and finally appeared in the TV series Legend of the Seeker in 2009 before being picked up to join the primary cast of the Hobbit. Kircher has a distinctive look and strong features that will likely set him apart from many of the other characters as he appears perhaps more naturally dwarf like than many. It will be interesting to see what won him the part above many others but is part of ‘ an amazing jigsaw of talent’ as he described it himself.

The clarinet-playing cousin of Bombur and Bofur, he is very fond of Raspberry Jam and Apple-tart and wears a yellow hood. He didn’t have as rough a barrel ride as many of his companions but was still too stiff to de-keg the other Dwarves. Bifur is potentially a less prominent character among the group but the long format may offer the character a little more room to breathe. While an unwritten character may be absent in the awareness of a reader, the immediacy of cinema means that a distinctive actor such as Kircher might gain a greater foothold for a footnote character. Its Bifur that will be worth watching to see how Jackson may have altered the characterisation and organisation of Tolkien’s characters as his generous nature towards characters will likely allow some minor members to offer greater influence on events.

John Callen (Oin) is a veteran New Zealand actor who’s credits begin with Pictures (NZ) as Casey in 1981, appearing in the the same Worzel Gummidge series as William Kircher though in a separate episode as a bailiff. He supplied additional voices to Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords in 2004 and Mucor in Power Rangers Mystic Force and Sonimax in four episodes of Power Rangers Jungle Fury TV series – how many Power Rangers series were there? He also offered up voiceovers for two documentaries in 20o1 and 2002 and directed for TV in 2000. His last credit before the Hobbit was Love Birds as Professor Craddock. John Callen has been brought in for his voice as much as any other attribute as true to Tolkien’s novel ‘I’m doing boy Soprano’, he quipped at the initial boot camp.

Oin, Son of Groin (pronounced Gro-in) is brother to Gloin and was counted on – along with his brother to start the campfires which both characters bickered over. Oin was ultimately a survivor of the battle of Five Points and entered Moria with Balin (where they met their doom at the hands of Orcs). However, he didn’t die in the catacombs discovered by Gandalf and Frodo – sadly his death came when trying to escape via the Western Door (featured in the Fellowship) -taken by the slightly terrifying Watcher in the Water.

And this brings us to the final member of the collective that travels to Smaugs lair alongside a certain inexperienced Hobbit and adventurous old Wizard.

Peter Hambleton (Gloin) is another Kiwi actor who appeared in the Shark in the Park (TV series), the Last Tattoo (1994) with William Kircher and Rainbow Warrior in 1992 as Maury Whitman alongside his future brother-in-height John Callen. His parts run fairly consistently throughout the nineties (predominantly in TV) but his longest stint was as Father Donleavy in The Strip TV series in 2002 and in film briefly in Home by Christmas as Sgt Syd Gurton in 2010, His last credit before joining the cast of The Hobbit was The Inspector in NZ TV series Paradise Cafe this year. His work is mostly New Zealand based and it is unsurprising that he would’ve worked previously alongside Kircher and Callen previously as the NZ TV and Film industry is miniscule. However, clearly Jackson was influenced enough by his hoem viewing to sign up 5 kiwis (although in relatively minor parts). Hambleton’s resume runs fairly consistently which suggests a professional and likable actor with an ability. It’ll be interesting to see what chemistry he can ignite with his singing and bickering brother on the cold nights preparing the fire.

Father to Gimli, Gloin survives the events of the Hobbit and travelled to Rivendell with his son as an embassy from Dain II to bring news of Erebor, Moria and what they knew of Sauron’s plans; in time to attend the council of Elrond. Making Gloin the only character to appear in Jackson’s previous film incarnation of Tolkien’s classic.

So there we have it; the circle has formed (perhaps in the shape of a Ring) and paths are linked between the old tales and the new in ways I didn’t expect as I began investigating these strange short and stout warrior travellers. Tolkien formed this band of misfits and inadequates, proud and pompous, inept and incapable, brazen and belligerent to travel to recapture something important to their civilisation. But when compared to the heroes and that populate the later, grander saga of the Lord of the Rings trilogy you begin to see that maybe in this simpler and more honed prequel to the famous tale, Tolkien created something more Human than the Humans that followed shortly after.

Short legged and long journeyed, having familiarised myself with the Merry band of Dwarves that are to travel to Erebor on a seemingly lunatic quest to fight an enormous talking Dragon and kick start a series of events that will threaten the entirety of Middle Earth completely, I look forward to getting a chance to sit back in the darkened hall of the Cinema and watch these fools do more than they ever expect. Make millions of people happy while they fight over fires, fall into rivers, climb out of barrels, argue with town leaders and survive a great Journey… there and Back again.

Really… a Dwarves tale.

The Merry Band: The Band of Dwarves Pt 1

‘The Dwarves of yore made mighty spells / while hammers fell like ringing bells / in places deep, where dark things sleep / in hollow halls beneath the fells.’

JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit begins with 13 Dwarves arriving in small groups and one by one at Bag End to meet with a surprised Hobbit of the Shire, Bilbo Baggins and convince to aid and abet in their plot. Doughy, rough faced, beardy cave miners – sturdy and brutal warriors and cheeky imp like mini-vikings, the Dwarves represent a family of MiddleEarth’s population only a mother could love. Even Tolkien doesn’t rate them much; admitting that trouble is never far behind them.

His first depiction of Dwarves in the Silmarillion (the first of the Middle Earth novels) depicts them as evil employers of Orcs and Tolkien’s urge to fill his roll call for the Hobbit with them demanded a more sympathetic perspective. He draws most heavily from the Norse storytelling of the ferocious warrior midgets and endowed them with armour and weaponry befitting this background.

At the time Tolkien was reportedly heavily influenced by his selective reading of Jewish history and the Jewish community oddly found representation in the band of short men that visit Bilbo. Dispossessed from the Homeland (the Lonely Mountain; their ancestral home is the goal the exiled Dwarves seek to reclaim) and living among other groups while retaining their own culture, while true of many cultures in modern history, was derived by Tolkien by the medieval image of Jews, whilst their warlike nature stems from accounts and tales from the Hebrew Bible. The one cultural similarity with Tolkien’s (and Dwarves themselves) initial approach to Dwarves was that both Medieval views of Jews and the fictional Norse Dwarves were seen and referred to as having a propensity towards making well-crafted things. This, to a writer so absorbed by the representation of cultures in his own work rings very true.

Tolkien was faced with a number of choices in how to present his 13 characters – while a small number of the Dwarves are prominent in the book; fundamentally they’re a mass of opinions and reactions to the events of the book. But the reader behaves among the group as a guest would – noting those most familiar with and recognising the others as individuals that make the whole more interesting. Even with Peter Jackson’s love of characterisation ( shown in LOTR, King Kong and The Frighteners) he’ll have a tough time making sure each and every one of this band of Dwarves will be introduced to us fully over the course of the adventures. Though how they might appear on screen is of great interest….

So who are these dwarves? And perhaps more importantly in the advancement of our expectations of what we’ll see in 2012 – who has been chosen to play them? If you are expecting a repeat of John Rhys Davies’ sturdy and gravity hugging Gimli in the Lord of the Rings trilogy you may be in for a surprise as the foremost in the cast look very little like the little men they’ve been called to play.

The band of Dwarves and the Hobbit - after arriving for Dwarf bootcamp in New Zealand

Though on the whole broad and powerful looking as a bunch they’ll no doubt fulfill every expectation put upon them. Assembled are new, younger, upcoming stars, more established actors, long standing performers who have enjoyed many roles but little recognition (most likely until now), older, less well known gentlemen and a familiar face from the previous films you just won’t recognise. They are now assembled in New Zealand for Dwarf Bootcamp, in which they will gain training, linguistic and accentual and physical, performance and technical to prepare for the role. Aidan Turner (of BBC3 horror comedy Being Human) is doing all he can to grow his own beard in time for preliminary shooting.

They are;

Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakensheild). The most prominent of the Dwarves in the book, Armitage appears on first glance an odd choice. Predominantly a theatre and television actor his only movie credit so far is as an uncredited Naboo Fighter Pilot in Star Wars: Phantom Menace, however following some very prominent roles in mainstream British TV in recent years; Cold Feet, North and South, ShakespeaRe-told, a strong performance BBCs Robin Hood series as misunderstood villain of the piece Guy of Gisbourne and an Armed Police Officer in Spooks he will appearing in Captain America: The Last Avenger this year as Nazi Heinz Kruger. (Whether he’s a misunderstood Nazi is yet to be seen). Regardless, his climb up the ladder has been steady and long and his strong voice and glower will add a lot to the head Dwarf, Thorin Oakenshield. I’ll be very interested to see how he’s presented.

Tolkien borrowed Thorin’s name from the Old Norse poem ‘Voluspa’, part of the poetic Edda. Thorin appears in stanza 12 and used for a Dwarf and the name Oakenshield (Elkinskjaldi) appear in stanza 13. Thorin is proud and brash and while he and Gandalf stand their ground in the Goblin tunnels and he is the least surprised by an encounter with Trolls but his leadership is far from distinguished and generates most of the difficulties the party face on their journey. Driven into exile by the Dragon Smaug in 2770, he wants to retake his homeland. He carries a charmed blade named Orcrist, a similar weapon to Frodo’s ‘Sting’ in LOTR.

Aidan Turner (Kili) – standing at 6′ and slim in build Aidan Turner is one of the main cast members that is undergoing a transformation in order to play his part. A British Television actor, Turner found prominence in BBC1’s Desperate Romantics as Romantic period painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and more notably BBC’s Being Human as Vampire Mitchell. His performances are strong and he’s physically a very capable actor. He tends to play romantic, self-destructive leads because of his appearance so his casting as a short stop will be another interesting one. A capable character actor however and great things should be expected for him. His character in Being Human has been told he’ll be killed by a Werewolf (cool) and much of Series 3 has the appearance of a rushed rewrite – as well as reduced budget – which is unsurprising as his character will be disappearing for at least a year shooting The Hobbit (original estimate under Del Toro was 377 days before final production on the second film).

Kili is one of two brothers, both young in Dwarf terms, younger than most of the group by as much as fifty years. Both brothers are described as having the best eyesight and are often sent for searching and scouting. They are also described as cheerful, as the only Dwarves to emerge from the barrels at Lake Town ‘more or less smiling’.

James Nesbitt (Bofur) – a bit of a statesman of British television, Nesbitt (like Turner) is an Irish actor witha strong, clear accent. A powerful and capable character actor Nesbitt has forged a distinctive career since appearing in A Play for Today in 1984. His status has grown progressively with Tv projects Ballykissangel, Playing the field and most notably Adam Williams in Cold Feet ( a precursor to Friends made in the UK about 3 couples of which Nesbitt was arguably the most prominent) as well as film roles – playing Ivan Cooper in Paul Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday – a dramatisation of the Irish Civil Rights protest march and subsequent massacre by British troops on January 30, 1972. Most recently he’s appeared in mainstream series such as the tepid The Deep and as the central character of Murphy’s Law (for ITV). Nesbitt is an actor of considerable character and is hilarious to watch in most things he’s in. A capable performer able to handle broad styles and physical performance (Jekyll, 2007) and sympathetic roles (also Jekyll, 2007 perhaps unsurprisingly).

‘Poor, fat,’ Bombur us frequently shown as having been the last in everything. A comedic character through and through, introducing himself by tumbling into Bifur and Bombur as they arrive at Bag End at the very start of the story and falls into the enchanted river. Bombur sleeps at several key moments of the book. Having fallen into the Enchanted River he sleeps for days, forcing his already frustrated companions to carry him. Understandably edited out in Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo asks after Bombur and is told that he had grown so fat it took six young dwarves to lift him, as he could no longer move from his bed to the couch.

Bombur is simply written and easy to delightfully realise. He’s right up Peter Jackson’s comedic street and we can expect great moments from the fattest Dwarf in the band. He also plays a drum.

Graham McTavish (Dwalin) is a perrenial and long standing character actor on British TV and film as well as a prominent voice artist. His distinctive and boxy appearance have given him many military and hardman roles throughout the years though he injects intelligence and character well in each case. A theatre actor he has appeared as Banquo in Macbeth, as well as Thangbrand in Erik the Viking, one of the best things in a flawed series as Warden Ackerman in Red Dwarf VIII as well as with James Nesbitt twice in Jekyll as Gavin Hardcastle and Murphy’s Law. He has made the jump to US projects in recent years, appearing in Quantum of Solace, 24, Prison Break, Lost, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and the new Rambo. He also voiced Loki in Hulk Vs (Video Game), Sebastian Shaw in Wolverine and the X-Men animated TV series and Thundercracker in Transformers: War for Cybertron video game. A man of some considerable stature, he is a capable and intelligent performer which accounts for his steady success on multiple platforms. He represents a warrior in almost all he does but more often than not a sympathetic one. I look forward to him representing Dwalin.

Dwalin is the first Dwarf to arrive at Bag End. He is a kindly soul, offering Bilbo a hood and cloak as they leave Bag End. After the events of the Hobbit, Dwalin rules Thorin’s halls in the Blue Mountains. His name is taken from Dvalin, a dwarf in the poetic Edda. The arc that Dwalin’s character follows suggests that he will be an interesting one to watch. An honourable character that survives the quest and gains what he deserves in the end. A precursor to Aragorn in the LOTR trilogy perhaps.

And finally for this batch of the band of Dwarves we have Kili’s brother, Fili.

Robert Kazinsky (Fili) is the definition of how you climb the ladder as a young actor. Starting on the Basil Brush Show as neatly monickered Sven Garley and as Casper Rose in Footballing soap Dream Team he completed the populist rope walk to find a place as unhinged Sean in Eastenders. Shortly afterwards he made the leap across the pond to appear in bit parts in Law and Order: Los Angeles and Brothers & Sisters. Apart from one short (Love, in 2009) and a film called Red Tails (still in Post Production he has no cinema credits. However, his performance was strong in Eastenders (the only place I’ve seen him) and I look forward to seeing him play cheery as opposed to mentally ill (TV style). An opportunity to play a character such as Fili should cement Kazinsky’s rise nicely and I suspect we can expect to see him more things afterwards.

Brother to Kili, Fili has the longest cloak on the quest (?!!). A temperament like his brother Kili, Fili is a cheerful character. Following the battle with spiders he’s forced to cut off most of his beard due to it being covered in webbing.

It grows late and the torch grows dim and I think I must retire so I must bid you all a good night / good day and leave you until next time. In which I will introduce you to the remaining members of this merry band of Dwarves. Keep warm dear reader and if you hear your trinkets moving in the night it’ll most likely be Dwarves come back to claim that which they bothered to dig up….

The Dwarves and Bilbo by Sam Bosma

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.

Peter Jackson: The Return of the King

With The Hobbit finally going into production in New Zealand we’re looking at the production, cast and Director over the next 9 days to get the ball rolling.

More than perhaps any other name, Peter Jackson is synonumous with the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. So how was it that the man himself insisted, after 11 years of pitching to see the Hobbit made into a film, that he not pilot it onto the big screen. And how is it after Industrial disputes, financial wrangling with New Line Cinema and the Tolkien estate, struggling Studios pulling the plug and a major director dropping out due to delays, Peter Jackson is back at the helm? Read on to find out….


Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh first expressed interest in filming the Hobbit in 1995, at the time envisioning it as part one of a trilogy (the other two being based on Lord of the Rings). Jackson’s producer, Harvey Weinstein, discovered that while Saul Zaentz had production rights to The Hobbit, production rights still belonged to United Artists. United Artists deliberately retained the rights to the Hobbit because they expected Jackson and Weinstein to try to make that instead of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, expecting to make a quick buck out of selling the rights. This convoluted and confusing arrangement, in which all parties with all aspects of the rights have to be in conjunction with each other or have a project planned that would justify the cost of paying out to gain said rights, something that can be hard to quantify, is what keeps most films the public want made in development hell. But it is pretty inevitable given the amount of money a successful project could gain.

On location in New Zealand for The Two Towers


Jackson launched a lawsuit in 2005 with New Line Cinema (the eventual studio behind the Lord of the Rings), claiming he had lost revenue from merchandising, video and computer games releases associated with The Fellowship of the Ring. Refusing a specific settlement and requested an audit to see whether New Line had deprived him of any money. Although Jackson wanted the matter resolved, he saw the dispute as minor and presumed that New Line would allow him to make The Hobbit. In January 2007, New Line’s co-founder Robert Shaye scuppered these plans, accusing the director of being greedy and stating that Jackson would never direct another film for New Line.

By August of the same year, Shaye was furiously back-pedalling after a series of very serious flops for New Line saying “I really respect and admire Peter and would love for him to be creatively involved in some way in The Hobbit.” The following month New Line was fined $125,000 for not providing the requested accounting documents.

On December 16, 2007 – New Line announced that Jackson would be executive producer of the Hobbit and its sequel. New Line and MGM would co-finance the film and MGM would distribute via 20th Century Fox ( an unprecedented deal with a major studio proving, unsurprisingly, how far the stock of Tolkien material had gone up). Each film budgeted to cost $150 million, almost $60 million more than each of the original LOTR trilogy.

Jackson at the time, made it clear that he chose not to direct as he would have been unsatisfying to compete with his previous films. So in February 2008, much to the disappointment of the viewing public and scores of fans around the world, Peter Jackson bowed out of heading the two final installments of the Tolkien canon.

Guillermo Del Toro was confirmed as Director in April 2008, following working with Jackson on the shelved Halo film project some time before. Jackson remained heavily involved, video conferencing with Del Toro, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh to complete the script.

Jackson announced that the scripting for the Hobbit would not be finished until early 2010, with scripting days rolling on for 12 hours at a time. Jackson, tellingly had kept the Rivendell scale model and the Bag End set live for the Hobbit in the intervening years, using Bag End as a guest house (seriously, orderly queue starts here!) Guillermo was quoting as saying that every week, they were discovering new things about the script and it was becoming clear that development was taking significantly longer than anticipated.

Jackson and Del Toro had a positive working relationship, disagreements resolved to the benefit of the script. Del Toro was insistent that he could direct the film in its entirety however Jackson, through personal experience on the original LOTR films offered to take the position of second unit director. While Del Toro has the same love of scale models and painted backdrops as Jackson – Del Toro was looking to move towards animatronics – enhanced through CGI in some cases but saw it as an opportunity to move animatronics 10 years into the future. This may very well have worked, however the animatronics in previous Del Toro films (such as Hellboy 2) are very clear to anyone who is looking. However, overwhelmingly the styles and creative output of the two men are very similar and the response from the public was positive at Del Toro’s involvement following successes such as Hellboy and classics like The Devil’s Backbone.

In 2010, Del Toro left the project, due to delays, saying that MGM’s financial problems had led to the Hobbit still not being Greenlit. “There cannot be any start dates until the MGM situation gets resolved… We have designed all the creatures. We’ve designed the sets and the wardrobe. We have done animatics and planned very lengthy action sequences. We have scary sequences and funny sequences and we are very, very prepared for when it’s finally triggered, but we don’t know anything until MGM is solved.”

A still from Jackson's latest film - Tintin

Two days later, Del Toro announced his departure on TheOneRing.net that “[i]n light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming”, he would “take leave from helming”, further stating that “the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. (…) I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director.” The internet went wild at the prospect of a new director and a faltering of the project everybody wanted to see. However, MGM had put all its major releases on hold including the lucrative Bond franchise. Jackson’s name was being thrown around however also mentioned were Neill Blomkap (a short film maker with only one feature, the excellent District 9, produced by Jackson, under his belt), David Yates (safe handed director responsible for the most recent Harry Potter films), terrifyingly Brett Ratner (Rush Hour trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand) and Dave Dobkin (director of Clay Pigeons, Shanghai Knights and the Wedding Crashers) – however Jackson was responsible for Braindead, Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles and The Frighteners (directly before LOTR) so few saw Lord of the Rings coming though Jackson was clearly a capable effects director before hsi triumph with the trilogy of trilogies.

Finally, on June 25, 2010, Jackson was reported to be in negotiations to direct the two-part film. On October 16, 2010, New Line Cinema and a newly joined Warner Bros. confirmed absolutely that the Hobbit was to proceed with Jackon as the director. As well as that, both companies confirmed that The Hobbit was officially greenlit and would begin principle shooting in February, 2011. In about 7 days time….

Its been a long journey for Sir Peter Jackson. From that first meeting at New Line Cinema in which it was insisted by the studio itself that it needed to be a film for each book to the glory days of the releases, mired by the financial disputes between New Line and the Tolkien estate (to the tune of $24 million no less according to reports) and now after considerable delays and frustration, Jackson has returned to the helm of the new Tolkien film. Although Del Toro would certainly have done an excellent job nobody doubts the integrity and determination of the original director to heave into view another magical and monumental installment of the tales of Middle Earth.

There and Back Again : A Wanderers tale by Peter Jackson….

Jackson relaxing on the set of Lord of the Rings - shots of Jackson enjoying himself have been in short supply these last few years