The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again are the titles for the two films currently in pre-production, an adaptation of the 1937 novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, will direct the films and also serve as producer and co-writer.
The films will star Martin Freeman, known for playing Tim Canterbury in the BBC comedy series The Office, as Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage, known for playing Lucas North in the BBC drama series Spooks, as Thorin Oakenshield. Several actors from Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy will reprise their roles, including Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, and Christopher Lee. Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm, and Orlando Bloom, though currently unsigned, are expected to return as well. Additionally, composer Howard Shore, who wrote the score for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, is expected to compose the score to The Hobbit films.
The two films will be shot back to back in New Zealand, with principal photography scheduled to begin on March 21, 2011.
The project has been envisaged as two films since 2006, but the proposed contents of the films has changed during development. MGM expressed interest in a second film in 2006, set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Jackson concurred, stating “one of the drawbacks of The Hobbit is [that] it’s relatively lightweight compared to Lord of the Rings… There [are] a lot of sections in which a character like Gandalf disappears for a while. From memory – I mean, I haven’t read it for a while now – but I think he references going off to meet with the White Council, who are actually characters like Galadriel and Saruman and people who we see in Lord of the Rings. He mysteriously vanishes for a while and then comes back, but we don’t really know what goes on.” Jackson was also interested in showing Gollum’s journey to Mordor, and Aragorn setting a watch on the Shire.
After his hiring in 2008, Del Toro confirmed the sequel would be about “trying to reconcile the facts of the first movie with a slightly different point of view. You would be able to see events that were not witnessed in the first.” He also noted the story must be drawn from only what is mentioned in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as they do not have the rights to The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. Del Toro also added (before writing began) that if they could not find a coherent story for the second film, they would just film The Hobbit, stating “The Hobbit is better contained in a single film and kept brisk and fluid with no artificial ‘break point’.” By November 2008, he acknowledged that the book was more detailed and eventful than people may remember. He decided to abandon the “bridge film” concept, feeling that it would be better for the two films to contain only material from The Hobbit:
When you lay out […] the story beats contained within the book (before even considering any apendix [sic] material) the work is enormous and encompasses more than one film. That’s why we are thinking of the TWO INSTALLMENTS as parts of a single NARRATIVE. That’s why I keep putting down the use of a “bridge” film (posited initially). I think the concept as such is not relevant anymore. I believe that the narrative and characters are rich enough to fit in TWO films.
Del Toro was faced with two possible places to split the story, including Smaug’s defeat. He noted the second film would need to end by leading directly into The Fellowship of the Ring. In June 2009, Del Toro revealed he had decided where to divide the story based on comments from fans about signifying a change in Bilbo’s relationship with the dwarves. The second film’s story would also have depended on how many actors could have reprised their roles.
On June 25, 2010, Jackson was reported to be in negotiations to direct the two-part film. On October 16, 2010, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. confirmed that The Hobbit was to proceed filming with Jackson as director and that the film will be in 3-D. As well as confirming Jackson as director, the film was reported to be greenlit, with principal photography to begin in February 2011. Jackson stated that “Exploring Tolkien’s Middle-earth goes way beyond a normal film-making experience. It’s an all-immersive journey into a very special place of imagination, beauty and drama.”
Although originally made as a two-part film, Jackson and MGM have confirmed plans for a third film as well.
The first film is currently titled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, with the second sub-titled There and Back Again before the series was expanded into a trilogy. The first and second films were shot back-to-back in New Zealand and are currently in post-production; principal photography began on 21 March 2011 and completed on 6 July 2012. They are scheduled to be released on 14 December 2012 and 13 December 2013, respectively. The final film will be released in the summer of 2014. While the third film will make use of footage originally shot for the first and second films, it will require additional filming as well.
On 30 July 2012, Jackson confirmed plans to make a third film, turning his adaptation of The Hobbit into a trilogy. According to Jackson, the third film would make extensive use of the appendices that Tolkien wrote, to expand the story of Middle-Earth, and published in the back of The Return of the King. Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen have already been contacted about appearing in a third film.
On 31 July 2012, it was reported that MarkMonitor registered a handful of domain names centered around the words Riddles in the Dark, The Battle of Five Armies and The Desolation of Smaug, suggesting that these are possible titles being considered for at least one of the films.