SYDNEY - "The Hobbit's" key cast of 13 dwarfs and one hobbit made their first public appearance together in Wellington, New Zealand, Friday, six weeks ahead of the start of shooting on the two films. However, producer-director Peter Jackson is on enforced bed rest, recovering from an operation for a perforated ulcer.
Jackson's illness pushed the start date for filming of the two "Lord Of The Rings" prequels to March 21. While U.K. actors Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), James Nesbitt and Richard Armitage joined their NZ colleagues at the Park Road Post Studios, Jackson apologized for his absence, saying in a statement that he was still "under a medical form of house arrest."
"I'd love to be with you all this morning, but I'm currently under a medical form of house arrest to prevent me from overdoing it, until fully recovered from my recent operation. I'll be jumping back into it very soon," he said, adding he would have been in danger of "popping a few stitches" if recent hilarious meetings with the cast were any indication.
"We take casting very seriously on every film we make, and we couldn't be more delighted with the group of wonderful actors we have gathered here. Those of you who are familiar with 'The Hobbit' will know the importance of the comradeship between Bilbo and each of his 13 dwarf adventurers. I couldn't be more excited about working with these actors, and the others soon to join us. I'm feeling these movies are going to be something very special," Jackson said.
The two-part film will be shot back-to-back and released in December 2012 and 2013.