With Peter Jackson finally locked and loaded to direct "The Hobbit" in February 2011, attention is now turning towards the next major step in the filmmaking process: casting.
Deadline reports that casting buzz on "The Hobbit" is building to a fever pitch; veterans Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis are expected to reprise their roles as Gandalf and Gollum respectively, with Martin Freeman, Jimmy Nesbitt, David Tennant and Michael Fassbender all rumored as newcomers to the franchise.
In some of those cases, we have a good sense of who these actors are playing. In others, all we can do is guess. Check out the full rundown on the film's latest casting rumors for yourself after the jump!
For the past several months, Freeman -- best known for playing the "Jim" role on the U.K. version of "The Office" and faithful sidekick Watson on the current BBC series "Sherlock" -- has been considered all but locked for Bilbo Baggins, the mild-mannered Hobbit turned bravest adventurer at the heart of the story. Deadline says that Freeman's casting is imminent; supporters of the actor can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
The acclaimed British actor ("Millions," "Bloody Sunday") has reportedly "been offered a role" already, but which one? According to Pajiba, Nesbitt will play Bofur, one of the many dwarves that accompany Gandalf and Bilbo on their quest. Bofur is the brother of Bombur and cousin of Bifur. It's still early days, but consider Bofur the frontrunner for Nesbit right now.
With villainous turns in "Jonah Hex" and "X-Men: First Class" (he plays a young Magneto in the latter) clogging up his resume of late, Fassbender could stand a return to more heroic roles, like the ones he played in "300" and "Inglorious Basterds." Perhaps he's been tapped to play Bard the Bowman, the Lake-town archer who successfully slays Smaug towards the conclusion of "The Hobbit." With his size and stature, it's hard to imagine Fassbender playing anything but a human role; with that in mind, Bard could be quite perfect.
The biggest mystery here is Tennant, the former "Doctor Who" actor next seen in the remake of "Fright Night." Tennant was once rumored for Bilbo Baggins, but with the part likely going to Freeman, it's anybody's guess as to who the "Who" star could play instead. Maybe he's a dwarf? Perhaps he's an elf? No matter who or what he is, the very involvement of Tennant is certainly exciting for Middle-Earth and "Who" enthusiasts alike.
Tell us who you think these actors will play in "The Hobbit" in the comments section and on Twitter!