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The process of making The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was far, far more complicated than you'd imagine for follow-ups to a massively successful film franchise. There was a lawsuit between Peter Jackson and New Line to be settled and financial restructuring at MGM, the general challenge of adapting a small children's book into two (and eventually three) films, and then director Guillermo del Toro's departure from the project after all those delays, spurring Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson to replace him. But once Jackson was officially on the project, there was something else that he says kept him awake at night-- a problem around just one very, very crucial person.
As Jackson told it at a press event for The Hobbit in New York last week, Martin Freeman was "the only person we ever wanted" for the role of Bilbo Baggins. But Freeman, famous for his work on the UK version of The Office and currently playing Watson on BBC's Sherlock, was much trickier to get on board than anyone expected, thanks to all those delays and his commitments back at the BBC. Here's how Jackson told the story:
He had qualities that would be perfect for Bilbo, that essential kind of fussy, English, slightly repressed quality. We met him early in pre-production and we really locked into him for the role. And with the delays that happened, mainly due to the MG< situation-- the delays were 18 months worth of us developing the movie but not being able to get a green light. We couldn't offer anything, we couldn't do anything contractually. And by the time we offered Martin the role he had committed to the Sherlock TV series. He shot the first season, but the second season of Sherlock was going to fall right in the middle of our shoot.
When you see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in theaters this weekend, you'll see exactly what Jackson means about Freeman being completely perfect for the role-- along with about a million other things that he's brought to Middle Earth this time around. We'll have nonstop coverage of The Hobbit coming throughout the week, including conversations with the people behind it, so keep coming back for more where this came from!