Saoirse Ronan, in her very brief career, has been incredibly fortunate. At just 17 years old, she's worked with some acclaimed filmmakers, from Amy Heckerling to Peter Weir, and has shared the screen with the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett (in the forthcoming action thriller Hanna). Now she's reuniting with her The Lovely Bones director Peter Jackson on what could be the movie-event of the decade - his Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit.
The Irish Film and Television Network reports that Ronan has signed on to fill an undisclosed role in the highly anticipated picture (though some claim she'll portray Itaril), which has just been slightly delayed again due to Jackson's illness. She joins a cast that includes returning franchise stars like Blanchett, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen in addition to newbies like Richard Armitage, Martin Freeman and Aidan Turner among countless others.
Ronan possesses a similarly ethereal look that Liv Tyler had as the Elf Princess Arwen in the original trilogy; a trait that will work to her advantage in accurately portraying whatever Middle-Earthly character she takes on. Her involvement doesn't surprise me, having already worked with Jackson (lucky broad) who likes to keep his cast familiar from picture to picture. Now if filming could just start...
Although the fate of where their big-footed creatures will alight to shoot The Hobbit is still undetermined, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have begun to officially cast the projects with Martin Freeman, as expected, set to play Bilbo Baggins. A host of other names was also announced Thursday.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that a meeting is set for Tuesday between New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Warner execs in a last-ditch effort to keep the films in the country, although The Independent cites Fran Walsh as saying The Hobbit could soon be enrolling in Hogwarts.
A government spokeswoman told the WSJ that talks between Key and Warner execs are scheduled to take place in Wellington on Tuesday, but she would not specify who is attending the meeting on Warners' behalf.
According to The Independent, Fran Walsh told Radio New Zealand on Thursday that Warners wanted to shift production to the UK's Leavesden Studios where the Harry Potter movies were filmed.
"They've got a huge studio that Harry Potter have vacated, that they own...that they say would be perfect for us," she said, adding that other UK locations were being scouted.
Reuters further reported, citing estimates from economists at New Zealand's ANZ-National bank, that the nation's economy could lose as much as $1.5 billion if Warner Bros. relocates the project.
Back to casting … New Line COO/president Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros COO/president Alan Horn, MGM co-CEO Stephen Cooper and Jackson also announced on Thursday that Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner, Rob Kazinsky, Graham McTavish, John Callen, Stephen Hunter, Mark Hadlow and Peter Hambleton have all been set.
While Deadline reports that nothing's definite, there are rumblings that James Nesbitt and David Tennant are up for roles, while Stephen Fry, Saoirse Ronan and Bill Nighy are possible participants.
Regarding Freeman, Jackson said, "Despite the various rumors and speculation surrounding 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."
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