With 2011 looming on the horizon and with 2010 having been disappointing for film, next year can’t get here fast enough. One film that moviegoers are eager to know about is The Hobbit, which will start shooting early in 2011. For some solid information Working Author went to the de facto source on all things Tolkien: J.W. Braun (check out his interview with Working Author) and he was kind enough to share what he knew so far. He sent us this:

The Hobbit begins shooting in February, and lots of rumors are floating around. We know there will be two films shot in digital 3-D, directed by Peter Jackson. Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis verbally agreed to reprise Gandalf and Gollum some time ago, but the contracts still have to be worked out. (Now that the film has a budget, that part can actually move forward!) Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who) and James Nesbitt (a British television actor) have mentioned that they might be involved with the films, though for what parts we don’t know. Martin Freeman was asked some time ago if he would play Bilbo but declined the role to pursue other projects. Most of the fans think he’s the perfect choice for the titular character and hope he’ll have a change of heart now that the The Hobbit is moving forward.

There is one hitch that remains, however. The Lord of the Rings was a non-union production, and the Screen Actors Guild and other related unions don’t want the same thing to happen with The Hobbit. They’ve advised actors not to accept parts in the prequel films, though we don’t know if this will matter to McKellen and the others mentioned above. The New Zealand actor’s union is hoping for a union contract. (It is worth noting that in Sean Astin’s book, There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale, Sean mentions that there were dangers and issues that the cast and crew had to tolerate due to the lack of union protection – and that the New Zealand film industry is still in the maturing stage.) Still, money talks, and it’s possible the studios will simply shoot elsewhere to avoid dealing with the labor issues in New Zealand. We’ll see what happens!

One last note: MGM (one of the studios making these films) is still making significant financial decisions with regard to their future, and we’re not yet sure what will become of the studio and who will run it. It’s something to keep an eye on.

Working Author is always happy to have J.W. Braun contribute his expertise to our site. Please support him by purchasing his book The Lord of the Films: The Unofficial Guide to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth on the Big Screen. (Read Working Author‘s review.)

You can also find J.W. at: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3081755.J_W_Braun and at his blog: http://jwbraun.com/.