Peter JacksonIt seems every time you turn around, there's a new rumor about the casting or the production of 'The Hobbit,' the long-awaited 'Lord of the Rings' prequel. If news blogs and fan sites are any indication, filming was set to start this summer ... no wait, the end of the year ... and Bilbo Baggins has already been cast! Or he hasn't! And three actors from the 'LOTR' films are definitely set to return ... or are they? (Heck, we've fallen victim to the 'Hobbit' rumor mill ourselves.)

As it turns out, the only sure things about 'The Hobbit' are that it's being directed by Guillermo del Toro and executive-produced by 'LOTR' guru Peter Jackson -- and that they've just finished writing the script for the project's two films. As for the rest of the rumors? Well, as Jackson told us while promoting the 'Lovely Bones' DVD, don't believe everything you read on the Interwebs.

Check back Monday for our full interview with Peter Jackson. Peter JacksonIt seems every time you turn around, there's a new rumor about the casting or the production of 'The Hobbit,' the long-awaited 'Lord of the Rings' prequel. If news blogs and fan sites are any indication, filming was set to start this summer ... no wait, the end of the year ... and Bilbo Baggins has already been cast! Or he hasn't! And three actors from the 'LOTR' films are definitely set to return ... or are they? (Heck, we've fallen victim to the 'Hobbit' rumor mill ourselves.)

As it turns out, the only sure things about 'The Hobbit' are that it's being directed by Guillermo del Toro and executive-produced by 'LOTR' guru Peter Jackson -- and that they've just finished writing the script for the project's two films. As for the rest of the rumors? Well, as Jackson told us while promoting the 'Lovely Bones' DVD, don't believe everything you read on the Interwebs.

Check back Monday for our full interview with Peter Jackson.

Is it true that filming on 'The Hobbit' has been delayed until the end of the year?
Well, it's not really been delayed, because we've never announced the date. I mean it's sort of interesting because the studio [MGM] has never greenlit 'The Hobbit,' so therefore 'The Hobbit' has never been officially announced as a "go" project, nor have we ever announced a date. But there's so much interest that people -- newspapers and magazines, of their own account, say, ah, it's likely to film in May, it's likely to film in June, it's likely to film in September. People make this stuff up. And then if it's not filming in June, you get a story saying, "'The Hobbit's' been delayed." But it's never actually been announced.

We've just delivered the script. Literally last week, we delivered the second of the two screenplays -- the first draft. So the studio's got both scripts now, which is a milestone; and if anything was holding it up, it was us doing the screenplays, because we'd just been writing as fast as we can, but it took us this long to get them finished. So we take whatever responsibility there is for the speed. And we're now in the process of budgeting the films, and then hopefully we'll get to a budget the studio [people] are happy with, and they'll greenlight the movies and we'll announce the shooting dates. I'd be pretty optimistic that we'll be shooting before the end of the year. I would imagine October, November, we'd be shooting by. I'm not announcing it, though.

When would you get down to the final stages of casting Bilbo Baggins?
We haven't signed any actors up yet, because we couldn't do that until they greenlight the movie. But I would imagine that if we get a green light within the next month or two, we would be hopefully making some casting announcements by, I guess, the middle of the year. We've done a little bit of auditioning, but we haven't really done any meetings with actors or anything yet. We've just been totally committed to the scripts. Everything's a little bit later than what people assume it is. I think people think we've been sort of doing secret casting.

You keep reading announcements like, "They're definitely going to have these three actors from the previous films ..."
I know, I know. No, there's no definite ... I mean, any character that's returning from 'The Lord of the Rings,' we obviously would love the same actors to play. But even those actors haven't been approached yet, or there [haven't] been any deals done. And the studio wouldn't organically do any of that until they've greenlit the film.
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