In the middle of the earth, in the land of the Shire, lives a brave little hobbit named Bilbo Baggins -- but off the screen, you know the man as Martin Freeman.
Freeman is the actor bringing reluctant adventurer Bilbo to life in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," out in theaters now. It's the first of three movies in Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" trilogy, a prequel to his already hugely successful three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" novels. For years, Freeman was a fan-favorite choice for the part of Bilbo Baggins, and even the actor was aware that people were lobbying for him to take the role before "The Hobbit" began production.
"There was some awareness on my part," Freeman told MTV News. "Years ago I bumped into Andy Serkis in London and he said, 'Are you aware that you've been mentioned for this? That people have been talking about you?' And I said, 'No, not officially,' which was the case. Nothing was said to me officially until 2010, when Guillermo del Toro was still directing."
Freeman's casting didn't come easily, however. For a time, the actor's commitments to BBC's "Sherlock" made it appear as though he wouldn't get to visit Middle-earth after all. Thankfully, scheduling issues were worked out, and Freeman was able to step into Bilbo's furry feet -- and his co-star, Ian McKellen, could not be happier.
"One of the great joys of this film is getting to know Martin," the actor, who has played the wizard Gandalf in all of Jackson's Middle-earth adventures, told MTV about the titular Hobbit. "He has such an individual personality, as you can tell when you see the film -- but in all of his work, too. He's very quirky and has a very dry wit."
McKellen had not yet seen "The Hobbit" at the time of our interview, but he had a strong suspicion about his reaction to Freeman's performance: "I think I'm going to feel as everybody else seems to think: that an international big-screen movie star has been born."
Do you agree with McKellen -- has a star been born in Martin Freeman? Tell us in the comments below!
Check out everything we've got on "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."