'The Hobbit': First-Look Photos Of Bilbo, Gandalf Hit Net

Martin Freeman's eagerly anticipated prequel Bilbo Baggins turns up in character, complete with hairy feet and pointy ears.

Although he's busy once again creating a Middle Earth-like world in the wilds of New Zealand, "Hobbit" director Peter Jackson has done an excellent job keeping fans of J. R. R. Tolkien's fantastical creations looped into the production. He's been posting photos, videos and updates on his Facebook page for months — including a few pics of himself in what appears to be Bilbo Baggins' home.

But what we haven't seen until now are official photos of the stars in character and on set. That's all changing, thanks to three pics posted by Entertainment Weekly. One image features Martin Freeman as Bilbo, another focuses on Ian McKellan as Gandalf, and the last captures both Freeman and Jackson in that familiar home.

The first photo is the one fans have been waiting years to see: a real-life representation of Bilbo himself. After all the production delays, the speculation and the rumors about the casting of the central character (James McAvoy? Daniel Radcliffe?), we finally are getting a look at Freeman (perhaps best known from the British version of "The Office") in character, complete with hairy feet, pointy ears and shaggy hair.

''He fits the ears and he's got some very nice feet,'' Jackson told EW about Freeman's portrayal of Bilbo. ''I think he's got the biggest hobbit feet we've had so far. They're a little bit hard to walk in, but he's managed to figure out the perfect hobbit gait.''

The second pic captures, in Gandalf, someone we're very familiar with from the "Lord of the Rings" series but who will be surrounded by a new cast of characters in this prequel story, the first part of which hits theaters in December 2012.

''He's in fantastic form,'' Jackson said of McKellan. ''In a way, his role in 'The Hobbit' has more technical difficulties than 'Lord of the Rings' did, because he has scenes with 14 smaller characters — obviously the dwarves and the hobbit are shorter. ... I remember saying to him [laughs], 'Look, this isn't "Waiting for Godot" or "King Lear." This is "The Hobbit." This is the real thing. ' "

The final photo takes us inside an on-set conversation with Jackson and Freeman, one of roughly a zillion the two are likely to have, considering how long the shoot will last. ''There's no way you can pace yourself for shoots like these,'' the director said. ''When we were going through the schedule for 'The Hobbit,' I felt a terrible drop in my stomach when I saw that we'd be shooting for 254 days. We're only 12 days short of 'The Lord of the Rings,' even though we're only doing two movies. When I saw that, I had to sort of pick myself up off the floor and carry on."

Tell us what you think of the new "Hobbit" photos in the comments section!

Check out everything we've got on "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

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