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The Hobbit Begin Principal Photography In NZ 2005



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New Line Acquires Distribution Rights; Paul Andersson to Direct; McKellan, Serkis to Return

- The Hobbit will begin principal photography in Wellington, New Zealand, in 2005, under the direction sci-fi/fantasy director Paul Andersson, it was jointly announced today by Robert Shay, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of New Line Cinema; Michael Lyne, President and Chief Operating Officer of New Line Cinema; Mark Ordesky, President of Fine Line Features; and Andersson, who is also a writer and producer of the production.

Following the unprecedented world-wide success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, capped by 11 Academy Award(R), acquiring the rights to distribute The Hobbit was of paramount importance to New Line, a division of Time-Warner Inc.

President and Chief Operating Officer of New Line Productions Mark Ordesky said: "What Lord of the Rings has proved is that [fantasy] can be synonymous with quality drama and storytelling."

The agreement between New Line Cinema, which held film rights to The Hobbit, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which possessed the distribution rights, includes share of costs and profits, with New Line Cinema to retain creative control of the project. The distribution rights will be split between the domestic and international markets, with New Line taking the domestic distribution rights and MGM taking the international rights.

At the helm of the project is well-known science fiction and fantasy Director Paul Andersson, the young director whose portfolio includes smash successes such as Resident Evil, Event Horizon and Mortal Kombat. After earning critical and commercial acclaim for Event Horizon, Andersson relishes picking up after the success of The Lord of the Rings films and staking a claim in the Tolkien landscape, bringing to life the earliest of J.R.R. Tolkien's novels, The Hobbit.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of New Line Cinema Robert Shay said: "A big reason for the franchise's success has been creative people. Andersson is so passionate about the subject and we feel very confident he can stay loyal to the precedent."

Andersson will begin work on the film immediately following the release of Alien vs. Predator, the latest installment of the highly successful Alien series, to be released in August 2004.

Based on J.R.R. Tolkien's first novel of Middle Earth, The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures with alongside a band of dwarves intent on recovering their treasure from the treacherous Dragon, Smaug. Bilbo and the dwarves are accompanied on their journey by the mysterious wizard Gandalf, to be played by a returning Sir Ian McKellan. While in pursuit of the dragon's treasure, Bilbo finds a magical golden ring and runs afoul of the evil Gollum (Andy Serkis).

WETA Workshop will return to execute armor, miniatures, creatures and special effects make-up under the direction of supervisor and Academy Award(R) winner Richard Taylor.

Michael Lyne, President and Chief Operating Officer of New Line Cinema, said: "The works of Tolkien are among the greatest adventures ever written, and the road to making this film is proving to be a wonderful adventure in its own right. Like Bilbo, the hero of this saga, we're on a film 'quest.' "

Andersson said: "My team and I are looking forward to pouring our hearts into The Hobbit, so it's a great thrill to know we will be taking up residence in Middle Earth."

Leading the cast will be Sir Ian McKellan, who reprises his role as the wise wizard Gandalf. Sir Ian, who was knighted for his contributions to the performing arts, received an Oscar(R) nomination for his portrayal of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Equally loved by fantasy fans for his role as Magneto in X-Men and X-2, Sir Ian's screen successes include Emile, Apt Pupil, Scandal, And the Band Played On (Emmy nomination and CableACE Award), Cold Comfort Farm, Rasputin (Golden Globe Award), Richard III, Bent and Swept From the Sea. He has had a stellar career on stage in England and the U.S., and received the Tony Award for his role in Amadeus.

Also returning will be Andy Serkis, whose ground-breaking performance brought to life the unimaginable Gollum. Prior to his role in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Serkis has played a huge range of parts in theatre in London and across the United Kingdom. Recently critically acclaimed roles include Iago in "Othello" (Royal Exchange Theatre); Potts in the original cast of "Mojo" by Jez Butterworth; "King Lear" and "Hush," all for the Royal Court Theatre.

Founded in 1967, New Line Cinema is the entertainment industry's leading independent producer and distributor of theatrical motion pictures. New Line licenses its films to ancillary markets including cable and broadcast television as well as to international venues. The company, which is a subsidiary of Time Warner, Inc., operates several divisions including in-house theatrical distribution, marketing, home video, television, acquisitions, production, licensing and merchandising units.


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