By Josh Rottenberg
February 11, 2011 at 12:00 PM EST

Image Credit: Ross Setford/NZPA/AP Images

It’s been a long, tumultuous slog just to get to the starting line, but with production of The Hobbit finally set to begin on March 21, key members of the cast gathered in Wellington, New Zealand for a press conference to answer reporters’ questions and give the world a look at their faces before director Peter Jackson buries them under heavy makeup and Middle-Earth muck. Jackson, who is still recovering at home from his recent hospitalization for a perforated ulcer, was not in attendance at the press conference: “I’m currently under a medical form of house arrest to keep me from overdoing it,” he said in a statement. But Martin Freeman, who is playing the hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins, was on hand, along with 12 actors cast as the company of dwarves: James Nesbitt, Rob Kazinsky, Aidan Turner, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Peter Hambleton, John Callen, Stephen Hunter, Adam Brown, Mark Hadlow and Jed Brophy. A link to the video is below, but if you don’t have 38 minutes to spare, here are the highlights: 

Freeman on following in the footsteps of Ian Holm, who played Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings trilogy: “Obviously I’ve been looking at what he was doing. There’s a certain level, of course, at which I have to match what he was doing and then forget it as well… Without being either big-headed or falsely modest, I think I’m quite a good match for him. I mean, I’ve seen worse matches… We’ll find out.”

Freeman, asked whether, given all the production’s difficulties, he’s worried about any “Hobbit curse”: “I’m not. I know what you mean. There are some bits of bad luck to do with it, I guess, that are almost comical, I suppose. But we’re all very optimistic about it. We’re all ready to go, just as soon as 2015 rolls around. We will be there and ready.”

Brophy on whether the cast is prepared to deal with “rabid Rings and Hobbit fans”: “We’ve had the shots.”

Kazinsky on being propelled to overnight heartthrob status: “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, bearing in mind that we’re probably not going to look like Adonises.… We have to be good first.”

Armitage on his thrill at being cast as Thorin Oakenshield: “My first experience on stage was in a production of The Hobbit at the Alex Theater in Birmingham. I played an Elf, and Gollum was a papier-mache puppet with a man offstage on a microphone. It’s been in my childhood very prominently, so to come to it as a middle-aged man and have another look at it is a brilliant opportunity.”

Freeman on Peter Jackson: “He’s as normal as is humanly possible for someone who’s richer than Croesus. For someone with as much money and Oscars as he’s got, he’s phenomenally, genuinely normal. It’s not an act. It’s not a put-on. Peter is… Sorry, Sir Peter — he’ll kill me if I don’t say that.”

Click here to watch the full press conference.

Read more:

‘The Hobbit’: filming begins March 21

‘Hobbit’ director Peter Jackson released from hospital

Peter Jackson recovering from surgery

‘The Hobbit’ scoop: Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis on board

Elijah Wood will appear in ‘The Hobbit’ as Frodo Baggins

‘The Hobbit’ to shoot in New Zealand

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  • Movie
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  • 170 minutes
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