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the hobbit

Peter Jackson Announces Hobbit Cast

There are no big surprises on the list, and the blizzard of names is a nice distraction from that nasty game of hardball he's playing with the New Zealand Actors' Equity union.

Martin Freeman will definitely play the lead role of Bilbo Baggins (he had previously expressed hope that the project would get off the ground); Richard Armitage of the British show MI-5 will play the heroic dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield; Aidan Turner, Rob Kazinsky, Graham McTavish, and assorted New Zealand character actors fill out the rest of the dwarves ensemble.

More fun are the unconfirmed reports that Ian McKellen will return as Gandalf, Andy Serkis will return as Gollum, and Bill Nighy will provide the voice of a dragon named Smaug. Also: The role of Elf King has yet to be cast, hopefully not because Warner Bros. just wants to have another distraction in its pocket in case the Jackson labor feud gets worse.

Peter Jackson Sets First Names For 'The Hobbit'">Peter Jackson Sets First Names For 'The Hobbit' [Deadline]

Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images