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'The Hobbit': production could begin by mid-2010 and casting is moving forward

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Relax, Middle Earth fans. There’s no need to panic.

Yesterday, TheOneRing.net posted a story speculating that the release dates of both Hobbit movies could get pushed from their tentative December spots in 2011 and 2012. The theory arose from comments that Hobbit co-writer and exec-producer Peter Jackson recently made to the German website moviereporter.net (currently off line), in which he mentioned that he hoped production would begin by the middle of next year. Jackson was quoted as saying: “We’re currently working on the second script, which we hope to have completed by the end of this year or beginning of next. When the scripts are completed, we can begin with the exact calculation of the necessary budget. We hope to start filming in the middle of next year. However, we’ve received no greenlight from the studio yet.”

A source for The Hobbit project confirmed to EW that Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and director Guillermo del Toro have finished up the script for the first Hobbit film, “are about to turn in” the script for the second installment, and are “looking at a number of scenarios for start dates,” including sometime in mid-2010. But no one on the creative side is worrying about release dates, according to the source. As always, that’s up to the studio.

As for Jackson’s comments about The Hobbit not having an official greenlight yet, fans shouldn’t read into those, either. There’s no strife between creative and the various studios (New Line, MGM, and Warner Bros.). It’s simply a matter of protocol. Without a finished pair of screenplays and a budget, the filmmakers wouldn’t expect to have a greenlight. Yep, even Peter Jackson sometimes has to play by studio rules.

On the upside, we could have casting news soon. Talent agents all over town are abuzz with word that casting directors for The Hobbit have been hired in London and L.A.