‘The Hobbit’ Finally Gets A Filming Start Date: March 21, 2011

When it was announced a week and a half ago that Peter Jackson had been rushed to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery for a perforated ulcer, it seemed like the bad news and continued delays surrounding “The Hobbit” were fated to never end. The film has seemingly been in flux for the past decade, and it had never really been able to find its footing. But Jackson was released last week and finally, finally it looks like we have some good news that means this film will actually be completed some time this year (knock on wood). So here goes…

Cameras start rolling on Monday, March 21. Finally!

Jackson said in a statement released by production company 3Foot7 Ltd that “despite some delays we are fully back on track and very excited to get started.” 3Foot7 added that the date was chosen following “practical considerations of the filming schedule requirements, actor availability and the New Zealand seasons.”

Though news is looking up at the moment, with all the major actors on board and Jackson in the director’s chair, things weren’t always looking so bright. This story starts a long, long time ago back in the mid-1990s…

Peter Jackson shot to worldwide renown with his magnificent adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but originally his plan with life partner Fran Walsh was to adapt “The Hobbit” as the first of a trilogy of films, the latter two being “The Lord of the Rings.” But Jackson and producer Harvey Weinstein discovered that the rights to “The Hobbit” belonged to United Artists, so in 1997 they started working on adapting “The Lord of the Rings” with New Line Cinema instead.

Fast-forward to 2005, after the international success of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and several prestigious Oscar wins for Jackson and company. It seemed only natural, if a bit backwards, that Jackson should start work on “The Hobbit,” but in March 2005 he launched a lawsuit against New Line saying he had lost revenue from the merchandise, video and computer game releases associated with “The Fellowship of the Ring.”

Jackson didn’t think the lawsuit would conflict with his plans for “The Hobbit,” but it actually put the film on hold indefinitely, culminating in January 2007 when New Line co-founder Robert Shaye said Jackson would never again direct a film for New Line. Uh oh. But by the end of 2007 their problems seem resolved and on December 18 it is announced that Jackson would executive produce the announced two-part version of “The Hobbit” that New Line/Warner Bros. and MGM would cofinance.

Finally, in April 2008, it was announced that Guillermo del Toro would direct “The Hobbit” films, and in August of that year pre-production finally got underway on the films. Jackson, Walsh and Philippa Boyens began working on the script and del Toro started crafting his vision for the films.

Things seemed to continue to be going well for “The Hobbit” through 2008 and into 2009, with the Hobbiton set being rebuilt in New Zealand and the scripts for both parts of “The Hobbit” nearing completion. But filming kept being delayed more and more and more until finally, on May 30, 2010, del Toro announced he would be leaving “The Hobbit.” Del Toro’s argument was that he hadn’t realized going into “The Hobbit” that it would take so many years to even get a confirmed start date on the film, and that the delays had led to many other scheduling conflicts that he could not continue to avoid.

But good news was only a month away. On June 25, rumors broke that Jackson was again in negotiations to direct “The Hobbit.” It took until October 15 to get that wily little rumor confirmed, but at least the film was back in capable hands… the capable hands it seemed to have belonged in since day one.

There were still some problems to deal with, though. For one, Ian McKellan, who had readjusted his schedule for “The Hobbit” multiple times throughout the past several years, was considered in danger of leaving the project. There also were the first rumors of problems going on with the union dispute in New Zealand that would carry on into the end of year. And then there was the fact that “The Hobbit” had been a really, really expensive movie to make.

Still, good things happen to those who wait. The New Zealand disputes ended with everyone happy and filming okayed to continue in the country. Martin Freeman was announced as Bilbo, and everyone can agree that he’s perfectly cast as the young hobbit. Howard Shore will again be scoring the two films like he did for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, with the movies being shot in digital 3-D. And, of course, the most important news: Ian McKellan, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom will be returning for the new films as well.

With filming only a month and a half away, it seems like things are finally looking up for “The Hobbit.” And even though it’s taken a long time for production to get off the ground, at least it appears that the wait will be well worth it. “The Hobbit: Part 1″ is currently set to hit theaters on December 19, 2012, with “Part 2″ following the year after in December.

Are you glad “The Hobbit” films are finally about to start filming? Tell us what you think in the comments section and on Twitter!