Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro are apparently keeping the production status on The Hobbit on the down low. But Gandalf is not. The Hollywood Reporter says Ian McKellen updated his website with a pretty sure-sounding confirmation of a July start date for shooting, in addition to a slew of other Hobbit updates:

Filming will take over a year. Casting in Los Angeles, New York City, and London has started.  The script too proceeds.  The first draft is crammed with old and new friends, again on a quest in Middle Earth. The director Guillermo del Toro is now living in Wellington, close to the Jacksons' and the studio in Miramar.

The Hobbit has been plagued with “on hold” rumors for years now, particularly in recent months with MGM going up for sale. Although New Line hasn’t even declared an official greenlight on the film, who are we to disbelieve a man when he tells us his work schedule? Then again, a wizard is never late and arrives precisely when he means to. So for all we know he could end up arriving in New Zealand to film in October of 2012, precisely when he means to.