Middle-Earth, baby, Middle-Earth!
It's been a process years in the making -- one that's been plagued by financial woes, years of production delays and the departure of original director Guillermo del Toro -- but at long last "The Hobbit" has reportedly been green-lit (finally!), with MGM and Warner Bros. okaying a production start date of February 2011.
The Wrap broke the news, citing the ever-popular "source close to the production," and a rep for Warners' New Line Cinema had yet to respond to MTV News' request for comment as of press time... so we're reserving all-out debaucherous celebration until we get the official confirmation.
For now, we're tentatively optimistic. And, as if the project getting the go-ahead wasn't cause enough for diehards to start throwing Elvish feasts, the website goes on to state that Peter Jackson has finalized his deal to direct the two-part "Lord of the Rings" prequel. In the words of Homer Simpson, "Woohoo!"
Jackson had been on board to co-write and produce "The Hobbit" from the get-go. When del Toro forfeited the director's chair five months ago to work on other projects, fans the world over began clamoring for Jackson to step in, arguing that no one else would suffice. With news that Jackson is locked in to direct, it appears the filmmaker will get to complete his vision for the translation of J.R.R. Tolkein's beloved books to the big screen.
Though reports have varied, the combined budget for the two films is said to be in the $400-500 million range. The first film is slated for a December 19, 2012, release, with the second pegged for a theatrical bow in 2013.
Once the green light and Jackson's role as director have been unequivocally confirmed, the only remaining question is: Who will play Bilbo Baggins? Andy Serkis and Ian McKellen are reportedly on board to reprise the roles of Gollum and Gandalf, respectively. With none of the other members of the original Fellowship set to return, it will have to be someone pretty freaking awesome. May we suggest Martin Freeman, the star of the British "Office" and del Toro's rumored top pick? If not him, Simon Pegg will more than suffice.
Who would you like to see play Bilbo? And are you encouraged by the news that "The Hobbit" finally, finally, finally has the green light?