If you're starting to be a little burned out by casting rumors for assorted dwarves, elves, and a hapless Baggins, you haven't seen anything yet. Because according to The Hollywood Reporter and Peter Jackson, The Hobbit is putting out a casting call, and holding auditions as of right now. All roles are up for grabs save Gandalf, which is being reserved for Sir Ian McKellen. (I would imagine Andy Serkis has his spot reserved too, and I would hope Hugo Weaving will return as Elrond.)

Jackson notes that being open to any actor or actress who might wander in is how he discovered Kate Winslet, Orlando Bloom, and Saoirse Ronan, and he has no intention of bowing to big name pressure. "[The Lord of the Rings films] have never been a star-driven vehicle. The star is Tolkien and the world he created. We are not under any pressure. We want to find the right people. Casting someone to portray a hobbit is not as easy as you might imagine. They have to have a particular type of physical appearance and a sensibility. And the same with an elf or a dwarf. These are fantastical characters, but you've got to find the right people to play them, the right humans to translate these characters." So, start the rumor mill going now, and choose who you will champion for their respective roles. I'm sticking with Martin Freeman for Bilbo, and Gerard Butler as Bard the Bowman for now. I'll have to think about the dwarves ...

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In an effort to get fans even more wound up, Jackson denied earlier reports that the film is delayed in any way, shape, or form. They are working on the second draft of the script, but remain on schedule. "We were always planning to shoot around April or May next year, and as far as I'm aware, we're pretty much on target for that. It depends on how quickly the studio greenlights the film. It's not in our hands. But as long as we're shooting next year, we're fine."

So, cross your fingers for that budget approval and green light. If Iron Man 2 can hit the ground running, and be in theaters by 2010, The Hobbit can probably make it by 2011. Just think of all that stuff they can reuse from Lord of the Rings -- surely there's a whole warehouse of hobbit costumes alone.