(March 21, 2011 – Wellington, NZ) – Production has commenced in Wellington, New Zealand, on “The Hobbit,” filmmaker Peter Jackson’s two film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s widely read masterpiece. “The Hobbit” is set in Middle-earth 60 years before Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar-winning “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” The two films, with screenplays by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson, will be shot consecutively in digital 3D using the latest camera and stereo technology. Filming will take place at Stone Street Studios, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand. “The Hobbit” follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever… Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities… A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know. Martin Freeman takes the title role as Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen returns in the role of Gandalf the Grey. The Dwarves are played by Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Ken Stott (Balin), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), William Kircher (Bifur) James Nesbitt (Bofur), Stephen Hunter (Bombur), Rob Kazinsky (Fili), Aidan Turner (Kili), Peter Hambleton (Gloin), John Callen (Oin), Jed Brophy (Nori), Mark Hadlow (Dori) and Adam Brown (Ori). Reprising their roles from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy are Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Andy Serkis as Gollum and Elijah Wood as Frodo. Jeffrey Thomas and Mike Mizrahi also join the cast as Dwarf Kings Thror and Thrain, respectively. Further casting announcements are expected. “The Hobbit” is produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, alongside Carolynne Cunningham. Executive producers are Ken Kamins and Zane Weiner, with Philippa Boyens as co-producer. The Oscar-winning, critically acclaimed “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, also from the production team of Jackson and Walsh, grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide at the box office. In 2003, “The Return of the King” swept the Academy Awards, winning all of the 11 categories in which it was nominated, including Best Picture – the first ever Best Picture win for a fantasy film. The trilogy’s production was also unprecedented at the time. Among the creative behind-the-scenes team returning to Jackson’s crew are director of photography Andrew Lesnie, production designer Dan Hennah, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, composer Howard Shore and make-up and hair designer Peter King. Costumes are designed by Ann Maskrey and Richard Taylor. Taylor is also overseeing the design and production of weaponry, armour and prosthetics which are once again being made by the award winning Weta Workshop. Weta Digital take on the visual effects for both films, led by the film’s visual effects supervisor, Joe Letteri. Post production will take place at Park Road Post Production in Wellington. “The Hobbit” films are co-produced by New Line Cinema and MGM, with New Line managing production. Warner Bros Pictures is handling worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television licensing being handled by MGM. The two films are planned for release in late 2012 and 2013, respectively. About New Line Cinema: New Line Cinema continues to be one of the most successful independent film companies. For more than 40 years, its mission has been to produce innovative, popular, profitable entertainment in the best creative environment. A pioneer in franchise filmmaking, New Line produced the Oscar®-winning “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which is a landmark in the history of film franchises. New Line Cinema is a division of Warner Bros. About Peter Jackson/Wingnut Films: Peter Jackson is one of the world's most successful filmmakers. His monumental achievement co-writing, co-producing and directing The Lord of the Rings trilogy (with fellow Academy Award winners and frequent collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens) earned a total of 30 Academy Award nominations and 17 Academy Awards. Jackson and Walsh received their first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for their acclaimed film Heavenly Creatures. Jackson, through his New Zealand-based Wingnut Films banner, also was responsible for the globally successful 2005 remake of King Kong which earned over $500 million worldwide and 3 Academy Awards. Jackson most recently directed the Academy Award nominated The Lovely Bones; an adaptation of the acclaimed best-selling novel by Alice Sebold, which to date has earned nearly $100 million worldwide; and produced the global sensation, District 9, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. He is also developing a trilogy of films with Steven Spielberg based on Tintin, the world renowned comic book series by Herge. In 2010 he received a Knighthood for his services to film. About Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. is actively engaged in the worldwide production and distribution of motion pictures, television programming, home video, interactive media, music, and licensed merchandise. The company owns the world's largest library of modern films, comprising around 4,100 titles. Operating units include Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc., United Artists Films Inc., MGM Television Entertainment Inc., MGM Networks Inc., MGM Distribution Co., MGM International Television Distribution Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Home Entertainment LLC, MGM ON STAGE, MGM Music, MGM Consumer Products and MGM Interactive. In addition, MGM has ownership interests in domestic and international TV channels reaching over 130 countries. For more information, visit www.mgm.com.