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Reluctant hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) faces giant spiders and other perils in Mirkwood Forest. ''I don't think I'm particularly hobbit-y,'' says Freeman. ''But I do like comfort and I'm quite private, so in those ways, maybe I am.''
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The wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) journeys to Hobbiton to help recruit Bilbo on a dangerous quest. ''Gandalf is still the same guy [he was in the Lord of the Rings trilogy],'' says McKellen. ''He's still got the same sense of humor and sense of urgency and concern — all those things that make him interesting.''
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Dwarves Fili (Dean O'Gorman, far left), Kili (Aidan Turner), Dori (Mark Hadlow), and Nori (Jed Brophy) trek through mountainous terrain in Middle-Earth. ''This movie has been a great opportunity for all of us to get fit,'' says Hadlow.
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Elrond (left), the ruler of Rivendell, played by Hugo Weaving, is one of a handful of characters from the Rings trilogy who appear in The Hobbit.
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Cate Blanchett's ethereal elf Galadriel is one of the Rings characters not in The Hobbit book being incorporated into the movie. ''It will all make sense,'' director Peter Jackson promises Tolkien purists.
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In one of the best-known sequences from the Hobbit book, the dwarves make a daring escape down a river in some barrels.
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Andy Serkis, who returns as Gollum, found it relatively easy to slip back into the role nearly a decade after the Rings trilogy. ''He's never really been that far away from me,'' Serkis says. ''He's always been kind of lurking under my skin.''
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Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
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Ian McKellen as Gandalf
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Richard Armitage plays Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the company of dwarves, who is fiercely determined to reclaim the dwarves' kingdom. ''He has this vision of what he's going to do for his people.''