With Peter Jackson currently putting the finishing touches on ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,’ the first part in his three-part movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit,’ the filmmaker caught up with The Dominion Post to speak on a number of topics relating to his latest trip to Middle-earth. In the feature, Peter Jackson shared his affinity with the hobbits, who have been “like a favourite child” for the Academy Award-winning director amid the elves, dwarfs, wizards, trolls, and orcs he has spent most of the past two decades with, “I always liked the hobbits because you can identify with them – and I particularly can. I’m a homebody, I like to put my feet up and I like the comforts of home. I’m not much of an adventurer, so I’ve always related to the hobbits and the story of Bilbo Baggins is the ultimate hobbit story.” The filmmaker also went on to speak about casting Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, the protagonist and titular character of ‘The Hobbit,’ “I had this cathartic moment, lying in bed at 5am watching the second episode of the first Sherlock series on my iPad and I was watching Martin thinking, ‘This is absolutely crazy. This is the guy who should be playing the role.'”

Furthermore, Peter Jackson spoke on filming ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy in 48-frames-per-second, a format that is twice the standard frame rate that has been used to make movies since the 1930s; with ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy being the first major studio films to be shot using 48 FPS technology. In July at CinemaCon, a preview of the 48 FPS footage attracted mixed reactions from journalists and film theater owners, however Jackson firmly defends the advancement and says it’s one that needs to be viewed in its full glory, “You don’t know whether you like it until you sit down and watch a two-hour film. That’s how it should be judged – not in a convention hall. Forty-eight frames is a terrific advancement in giving people an experience in the cinema that’s immersive, feels real and is something they can’t get off their iPads or TVs at home. We’re living in an age where kids are not going to the movies like we did. It’s important as film-makers that we use technology to get people back into cinemas.” I, for one, am fascinated to see how the films look in 48 FPS. Although, if recent reports are correct, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ 48 FPS format will only be available in select cinemas when the film opens in December.

Originally made as a two-part film, Warner Bros, Peter Jackson, producer Fran Walsh and writer-producer Philippa Boyens announced a few weeks back that ‘The Hobbit’ films will now be a trilogy. At this moment in time, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ is set for a December 14th, 2012 release date, while ‘The Hobbit: There and Back Again’ will arrive in cinemas December 13th, 2013. The third as-yet-untitled instalment will follow in Summer 2014, in the same way the films in Peter Jackson’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy were released over three consecutive years. Rumours are pointing towards the title of the third and final Hobbit film to possibly include variations of “Desolation of Smaug” or “Riddles in the Dark”.

‘The Hobbit’ films are set in Middle-earth 60 years before ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ which Peter Jackson and his film-making team brought to the big screen in the fantastic blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar-winning ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.’ Reprising their roles from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movies are Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey, Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo, Christopher Lee as Saruman, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, and Andy Serkis as Gollum. The ensemble cast includes the likes of Martin Freeman, who’s taking on the central role of Bilbo Baggins, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, Stephen Hunter, William Kircher, Sylvester McCoy, Bret McKenzie, Graham McTavish, Mike Mizrahi, James Nesbitt, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Mikael Persbrandt, Conan Stevens, Ken Stott, Jeffrey Thomas, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Billy Connolly, and Aidan Turner. Check out official synopsis and production notes for ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ below.

The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome 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.

The first film in the trilogy, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” will be released December 14, 2012, with the second film releasing on December 13, 2013, and the third film slated for summer 2014. All three films will be released in 3D and 2D in select theatres and IMAX.

From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes three films based on The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. The trilogy of films are set in Middle-earth 60 years before “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.”

Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, the character he played in “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy, with Martin Freeman in the central role of Bilbo Baggins, and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield.  Returning cast members from “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy also include Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, and Andy Serkis as “Gollum.”  The international ensemble cast also includes (in alphabetical order) John Bell, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Billy Connolly, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, Barry Humphries, Stephen Hunter, William Kircher, Evangeline Lilly, Sylvester McCoy, Bret McKenzie, Graham McTavish, Mike Mizrahi, James Nesbitt, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Mikael Persbrandt, Conan Stevens, Ken Stott, Jeffrey Thomas, and Aidan Turner.

The screenplay for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro.  Jackson is also producing the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers.

Under Jackson’s direction, all three movies are being shot in digital 3D using the latest camera and stereo technology. Additional filming, as with principal photography, is taking place at Stone Street Studios, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and its successive installments are productions of 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.