In direct defiance of the will of the universe, MGM has given the green light to The Hobbit, the Lord Of The Rings prequel that has so far survived a studio bankruptcy, the dramatic exit of its director, a proposed union strike, and a devastating fire. Deadline reports that a recent suggested merger between MGM and Lionsgate could add “more drama” to the studio’s current financial situation and recent deal with Spyglass, while also acknowledging that the labor dispute over the treatment of New Zealand actors is still ongoing. Nevertheless, the production has already started casting, with word that early favorite Martin Freeman (best known for playing Tim on the UK version of The Office) is still in the lead to play Bilbo Baggins, with David Tennant, Michael Fassbender, and Jimmy Nesbitt also being pursued for roles alongside the returning Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis. The film is set to begin production as early as February, and as reported before will be shot in two parts in digital 3D under the direction of Peter Jackson, whose insides are currently being consumed by a ravenous tapeworm and who was also just struck by lightning.

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