New Zealand loves those Hobbits
18 Jan 2011
Valentine’s Day 2011 - February 14 - could have added heart-warming significance in New Zealand this year with talk that filming of the much anticipated Hobbit movies is likely to begin that day.
Fans are welcoming the claim by Wellywood insiders that cameras will start rolling on the two films on 14 February - though there seems to be some debate about location.
Matamata locals says they’re watching for signs that might indicate filming has begun at the famous Hobbiton site just outside the Waikato town, and the local newspaper reports that the "pitter patter of hairy feet is getting louder with filming starting next month."
But rumours that filming will begin in Wellington have been strengthened by Sir Ian McKellen, who is reprising his Lord of the Rings role as Gandalf, and has posted a comment on his website saying he is happy to say he starts filming in Wellington on February 21, 2011.
Film publicist Melissa Booth has confirmed filming will start next month, but where and when is yet to be announced.
Hobbiton on watch
Matamata-Piako locals say they are watching for the shutdown of the district's Hobbiton movie set tours which will be a definite sign that filming is under way on the long-awaited prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Hobbiton Movie Set & Farm Tours manager Russell Alexander has remained tight-lipped.
"I've got meetings coming up but I'm bound by confidentiality and I can't talk, and I can't say what I do know," Alexander said.
Matamata-Piako Mayor Hugh Vercoe says the town is "looking absolutely fabulous" and is ready to welcome the film crews with open arms.
He says the long-term economic benefits for the district outweighed the immediate economic impact of production.
Unlike the set built for the Lord of the Rings films which was dismantled following filming, the one rebuilt for The Hobbit will remain permanently, providing a future drawcard for fans once filming is completed.
Hobbit cast due
While an exact date had not been set for filming, Melissa Booth says a significant number of the actors are due to start arriving in Wellington in the next two weeks.
The official announcement that McKellen would play Gandalf in The Hobbit was made only last week.
Other returning cast members have also been announced, with Elijah Wood to play Frodo, Andy Serkis cast as Gollum, Cate Blanchett as Galadrial, and Orlando Bloom as Legolas. Martin Freeman, of The Office, will play Bilbo Baggins.
Elijah Wood says he can’t wait to be reunited with his co-stars and claims it will be "like going back in time".
While Wood is looking forward to filming with his former cast mates, he says it's unlikely that they will re-seal their bond by getting inked with tattoos as they did while making the Lord of the Rings.
"This time around, I don't think so," says 29-year-old Wood, whose torso bears the Elvish word for ‘nine’, a reference to the number of members of the Fellowship. "But you never know."
It is unclear whether The Hobbit will provide new locations for Wellington tourist operators to add to their Lord of the Rings site tours.
A Wellington City Council spokesman said no resource consent applications, or requests to use public land, had been received from Jackson's team.
"It sounds like a lot of it will be done in the studios," Richard McLean said.
One area that definitely won't be used is the site of the former Kingdom Come set near Wellington Prison, according to a spokesman for Sir Peter Jackson.
In Dunedin yesterday (17.1.2011) about 100 people lined up outside the city’s Edgar Centre to attend a casting call for non-speaking doubles for actors in The Hobbit.
All had to adhere to a number of guidelines - they had to be aged 17 to 55, be between 128cm and 158cm if male, and between 128 and 153cm if female.
The hopefuls had all signed secrecy agreements and were tight-lipped about which actors would need scale doubles.
The Hobbit films are being co-produced by New Line Cinema, Warner Bros and MGM, and scheduled for release in December 2012 (part one) and December 2013.
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