'The Hobbit' Casting News: Cate Blanchett Returns To Middle-Earth! Sylvester McCoy Is Confirmed!

Cate BlanchettWe're closer and closer to a return trip to Middle-Earth every day, and it actually appears that "The Hobbit" is moving forward without a hitch — so far, at least. Adding further fuel to the idea that Peter Jackson's two-part prequel to "The Lord of the Rings" is actually happening is the fact that New Line and Warner Bros. just revealed that a February 2011 production start date has been set... and seven new actors have joined the film's cast!

Well, we should clarify: six new actors and one "Lord of the Rings" veteran. In a press release, New Line and Warner Bros. announced that in addition to new arrivals Ken Stott, Sylvester McCoy and Mikael Persbrandt, Oscar winning actress Cate Blanchett is set to reprise her role as Galadriel, the Lady of Lothlorien.

Stott is playing the Dwarf Lord Balin, Persbrandt is tackling the part of shape-shifter Beorn, and McCoy has been cast as Radagast the Brown, as was previously rumored. Other newcomers include Ryan Gage as Drogo Baggins, Jed Brophy as the dwarf Nori, and William Kircher as the dwarf Bifur.

"Cate is one of my favorite actors to work with and I couldn't be more thrilled to have her reprise the role she so beautifully brought to life in the earlier films," Jackson said of Blanchett in a statement. He added on the casting of Stott: "Fran and I have long been fans of Ken's work and are excited he will be joining us on this journey."

Regarding Persbrandt's enlistment as Beorn, Jackson said: "The role of Beorn is an iconic one and Mikael was our first choice for the part. Since seeing him read for the role we can't imagine anyone else playing this character."

The new actors join the previously cast Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. There's still no official word on Ian McKellen's return as Gandalf the Grey.

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