'The Hobbit' Begins Filming

Following years of delays and numerous changes, Peter Jackson's production is finally under way.

It's been a long, long time coming, but after spending more than 14 years gestating, Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" movie finally started filming on Monday (March 21).

Production is taking place at Stone Street Studios in New Zealand, the same studio where Jackson shot his three "Lord of the Rings" films. Shooting is expected to take around two years to complete, with the anticipated release date of the tentatively titled "There and Back Again" December 19, 2012 and "The Hobbit: An/The Unexpected Journey" sometime in December 2013.

It wasn't until last month that the cast of "The Hobbit" were brought together for the first time, during a press conference in New Zealand. Since then, castmember Ian McKellan has been keeping fans up-to-date on the pre-production process via his blog. Earlier this month, he announced that he had seen Martin Freeman dressed in character as leading man Bilbo Baggins and caught a glimpse of the footage in 3-D.

Production on "The Hobbit" has been rife with its share of problems since Jackson first presented the idea to adapt it back in 1997. From 2005-2007, Jackson and New Line Cinemas were involved in a legal battle that eventually relegated Jackson to executive producer while another director would helm the films. Then director Guillermo del Toro agreed to come onboard to helm the films in 2008, but in May 2010, he said that he couldn't continue his time commitment to the films. And even after Jackson was again confirmed as director on October 15, 2010, there were union disputes in New Zealand that almost forced "The Hobbit" to relocate to a different filming area.

Fortunately everything has been resolved since then. Jackson is directing the flicks, Freeman is starring as Bilbo and "Lord of the Rings" actors McKellan, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom will be returning for the new films. The movies will be shot in digital 3-D, and Howard Shore, who composed the score for the three "Lord of the Rings" films, will be working on these as well.

"We're all very optimistic about it," Freeman said during the New Zealand press conference according to the BBC. "We're ready to go — just as soon as 2015 comes around."

Lucky for us, the filming start date was a bit sooner than that.

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