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Ahh but it got even more surreal late last night as all the unions involved told their members to DROP the boycott of The Hobbit production. Only trouble is, as above, WB are already prepping to move the film. Whether it a bluff or double bluff or whatever we'll never know. I imagine Jackson will want to shoot in NZ.

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'The Hobbit' filming 'may be moved to UK'

Thursday, October 21 2010, 14:42 BST

By Justin Harp, Entertainment Reporter

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Peter JacksonFran WalshJohn KeyMovies

WENN

Filming on Sir Peter Jackson's two-part Hobbit movies may shift from New Zealand to the UK, it has been claimed.

According to The Daily Telegraph, Jackson has cited a dispute with New Zealand's actor's union as the reason why the production may be moved.

Fran Walsh, Jackson's wife and creative partner, has suggested that the UK could be an ideal location to film the Lord Of The Rings prequel.

"They have had people in the UK taking location photographs," she told Radio New Zealand.

Walsh continued: "They’ve got a huge studio there that Harry Potter has vacated, the ex-Rolls Royce factory [in Leavesden], that they say would be perfect for us."

In an official statement, Jackson expressed his disappointment with possibly having to cease working in his native country.

He asserted, however, that production on The Hobbit could no longer be held up by "unjustified industrial action" by New Zealand Actors Equity, which has called for an international boycott of the film.

The filmmaker said: "It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.

"New Zealand Equity’s unjustified industrial action against The Hobbit has undermined Warner Brothers's confidence in New Zealand as a stable employment environment, and they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their $500m (£317m) investment."

The country's Prime Minister John Key stated that losing The Hobbit would be a "tragedy" and promised to meet with executives from Warner Brothers next week to attempt to resolve the crisis.

In September, representatives for the US Screen Actors Guild suggested that they would urge their members not to work on The Hobbit until an agreement between the two sides can be reached. They have since called off the boycott.

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Peter Jackson Announces ‘The Hobbit’ Cast

Peter Jackson has, at long last, made an official announcement about who will appear in The Hobbit. He has confirmed Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, taking over the role originated by Ian Holm in The Lord of the Rings. A great many other names were released as well, almost all of whom make up the large company of Dwarves that hires Bilbo to be their ‘burgler’ before setting out to kill the dragon Smaug and recover the dwarven treasure the dragon uses as a bed. All the names are after the break.

Complementing Mr. Freeman are:

* Richard Armitage (MI-5, Captain America) as Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the Dwarves, whose grandfather ruled the Lonely Mountain settlement destroyed by Smaug.

* Aidan Turner (Being Human) and Rob Kazinsky (EastEnders) as Kili and Fili, nephews of Thorin.

* Graham McTavish (Secretariat) as Dwalin, blue-bearded, first to arrive at the home of Bilbo Baggins.

* John Callen as Oin, skillful fire-maker. Brother of Gloin.

* Stephen Hunter (All Saints) as Bombur, the fat, sleepy and slow member of Thorin’s company.

* Mark Hadlow (King Kong) as Dori, strongest of the Dwarves, who carries Bilbo on his back at one point.

* Peter Hambleton (The Strip) as Gloin, brother of Oin, initially suspicious of Bilbo’s worth, but eventually convinced. Father of Gimli from The Lord of the Rings.

More info to come in the coming hours. That’s only eight Dwarves, so we need five more names to make up the film’s company of thirteen.

Mr. Jackson is also expected to confirm the return of Ian McKellan as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum. He may announce roles for Jimmy Nesbitt and David Tennant (would he be Bard?) as well.

Other actors mentioned by Deadline as possibles are Stephen Fry, Saoirse Ronan, and Bill Nighy as a potential voice for Smaug the Dragon.

So, is this announcement a way to combat the rather glum news that has plagued the production of The Hobbit in the past few weeks. While the two films were finally greenlit a week ago (huzzah!) labor disputes in New Zealand and Australia cast a pall over the production. While those disputes have been resolved (read: dropped) they were enough to worry Warner Bros. that New Zealand might not be the place to shoot these movies after all. We’re still waiting to hear if the production will move, with the Leavesden Studios (home of Harry Potter) as one likely destination.

And, if you’re wondering about the justification for some of these decisions, Peter Jackson has spoken about many of the actors. Here are his comments:

Despite the various rumours and speculation surround this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us… There are a few times in your career when you come across an actor who you know was born to play a role, but that was the case as soon as I met Martin. He is intelligent, funny, surprising and brave — exactly like Bilbo and I feel incredibly proud to be able to announce that he is our Hobbit.

Richard [Armitage] is one of the most exciting and dynamic actors working on screen today and we know he is going to make an amazing Thorin Oakenshield. We cannot wait to start this adventure with him and feel very lucky that one of the most beloved characters in Middle Earth is in such good hands.

Rob [Kazinsky] is an extremely talented young actor with a huge career in front of him. I’m thrilled that he has agreed to take on the role of Fili. Besides his talent as an actor, Rob is also a champion sword fighter and I’m looking forward to seeing the damage he can do to a horde of marauding Goblins … Aidan [Turner] is a wonderfully gifted young actor who hails from Ireland. I’m sure he will bring enormous heart and humor to the role of Kili.

Graham [McTavish] is a terrific actor, with a great depth of experience, which I know he will bring to the role of Dwalin. I have worked with Mark Hadlow on many projects, he is a fantastic actor…I am also proud to annouce the casting of New Zealand actors as Peter Hambleton, John Callen and Stephen Hunter. Fran and I know that they will bring great depth and talent to our Company of Dwarves.

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Freeman's a great choice for Bilbo, and there's some interesting casting of the dwarves so far.

I reckon Nighy would be a good voice for Smaug - he can do that laid-back arrogance but turn up the anger like he did as Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean.

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What locations would people use in the uk??

I'd put The shire in hampshire/Dorset/Devon

Mirkwood in the New forest..

and I can't remember much more.... perhaps Smaugs place in deepest wales??

I think I'd do pretty much the whole lot in the West Midlands (where Tolkien lived and wrote and was presumably inspired by the scenery when creating The Shire) and various mountainous bits of Wales. Forest of Dean could do Mirkwood.

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Interview with Peter Jackson and Phillipa Boyans

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoUN2AGxrnA&feature=player_embedded#!

Jackson looks really run down and this whole dispute has quite clearly pissed him off :( The whole thing seems to be a huge mess but I do hope that they can come to some sort of agreement, as much as some of the people on here would love to see the Hobbit filmed in the UK personally I hope it stays in NZ, the New Zealand countryside was a huge part of the LotR films and also the talent at WETA and the other Kiwi workers would be hard to replace plus I would imagine it would be hard for Jackson to be happy working on the movie if he had to shoot it outside of NZ.

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Regarding all this stuff about tax breaks, isn't the UK absolutely diabolical for stuff like that?

There must be some reason for the major US studios to do production in this country ;) It's rather quite amazing the amount of public money that the film industry (private commercial enterprise) seems to get all over the world, if anyone ever pays any attention to the end credits.

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No wonder, potentially a lot of $$$ to be pumped into the NZ economy if the film gets made there, I'm sure if the government wants the work, they just need to offer better incentives than the competing options.

A rather illuminating couple of quotes from a recent government report about WB's UK studio operations as to why the UK might be in the running for this:

Finally, Mr Button stressed the importance of a attractive tax break scheme, given that so many countries and US states are competing for film business. He said that his board would consider it "fiscally irresponsible" to make a film in a country/state without a tax break.
The main role of the British Film Commissioner is to persuade American producers to make films in the UK. This includes major Hollywood producers as well as independent film companies. The Office of the British Film Commissioner consists of the Commissioner himself, plus four staff in the London office, and one member of staff based in Los Angeles. Mr Brown said he would find it very helpful to have one extra member of staff based in LA to help get more inward investment. Mr Brown noted, by way of example, that the Australian Film Commission, invested more money than the UK in events to try to stimulate US inward investment.

The figures for inward investment in 2009 are encouraging. In July 2009, the UK Film Council published the UK film production statistics for the first half of 2009. The numbers first half year (H1) production in the UK are the best since 2004. The total UK spend value in H1 2009 was £535.1m, compared with £363 million in H1 2008. Of the £535.1m total, £436.2m was accounted for by inward investment films such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Clash of the Titans and Gulliver's Travels. Mr Brown said that the low figure for 2008 was a blip, caused by the writers' strike and actors' renegotiation in Hollywood—leading to uncertainty over production plans—and the high £/$ exchange rate. He expected 2010 to be even better than 2009.

According to the Mr Brown, the key drivers for success in inward investment are: the exchange rate; and the tax relief system for UK films. His Office had commissioned research which compared costs of making films in ten countries, and the UK came out second cheapest. Hungary was the cheapest. The two areas which drove up costs in the UK were construction costs and stage space.

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They'd have to do the exterior shots elsewhere though - surely the UK doesn't have enough entirely unspoilt wilderness to double as middle earth. And no mountain ranges that can match New Zealand.

I'm sure that when they first started on the Lord of the Rings they looked at the Uk, but couldn't find enough locations that didn't have roads, pylons etc running through them.

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This needs to be shot in NZ, and of course at the end of it all it will be.

At this point the most important factor for the on screen LOTR mythos is consistency. Yes some saddo's might feel great about themselves if some forest location is shot 10 miles out of Birmingham. But New Zealand is Middle Earth. Tolkein just didn't live long enough to realise it.

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The budget is set at.....$500M for the two films together!

Blimey Charlie.

Source: Total Film

Peter Jackson will take charge of the most expensive film ever made when The Hobbit finally starts shooting in February 2011.

MGM and New Line are handing Jackson $500 million, which will buy a lot of second breakfasts.

It's the highest budget in movie history, at almost double the budget for the entire original Lord Of The Rings Trilogy ($281 million), beating the previous record holder - Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End - by $200 million.

But it does have to cover two films so, Pete, don't blow it all on genetically engineering a real dragon to play Smaug, okay?

Read more: Film news Hobbit to break budget record | TotalFilm.com

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