Jackson on health 'house arrest'

Last updated 13:28 11/02/2011
MARCUS WILD/Stuff.co.nz

Martin Freeman, who will play Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit movies, leads his cast mates from the front at an event to mark start of filming. Warning: video contains swearing. MARCUS WILD/Stuff.co.nz

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FROM OFFICE TO FOREST: Martin Freeman will play Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, and Peter Jackson says it is a role he was born to play.
Hobbit 1
CHRIS SKELTON/Dominion Post Zoom
Gary Dyall (short) and Andrew Van Klei (tall) cue up for casting of the Hobbit at the Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre.
James Nesbitt and Sophie Bennett
Rebecca McMillan
KITTED OUT: Hobbit star James Nesbitt attended the Wellington sevens and was recognised by visiting Brit Sophie Bennett.
hobbit rally
SHANE WENZLICK/Stuff.co.nz Zoom
SAY IT LOUD AND PROUD: Hobbit rally organiser Mark Harrison speaks at QE2 Square in Auckland.

The Hobbit stays in NZ

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Sir Peter Jackson missed today's Wellington launch featuring the stars of The Hobbit as he is under the health version of "house arrest''.

Jackson said via a statement handed out at the press conference in Wellington that he "regretted'' not being able to attend.

The director was hospitalised last month with a perforated ulcer. He was discharged last week but has been resting at home.

This morning's press conference included British actor Martin Freeman, who has the pivotal role of hobbit Bilbo Baggins, in the US$500 million two-part Lord of the Rings prequel.

He was also joined by Irish actor James Nesbitt (best known for his television roles, including the series Cold Feet), Spooks star Richard Armitage and New Zealand actors include William Kircher, Peter Hambleton, John Callen, Jed Brophy and Mark Hadlow. They all have roles as dwarves in the films.

Freeman said being cast as Bilbo Baggins was the role of a lifetime.

"I'm extremely chuffed.''

Freeman said he had sent in an audition tape for Bilbo, but was concerned he couldn't schedule it around his television show Sherlock Holmes.

He and his troupe of dwarves had been in Wellington for about four weeks.

Nesbitt said he had brought his family and being here was "fantastic''. He had even attended the sevens last weekend dressed as a chicken.

Hadlow and Brophy said working with the overseas stars was great, with Brophy describing them as "really good blokes''.

Filming of The Hobbit will begin on March 21 at Stone Street Studios in Miramar, Wellington, and with location shooting around New Zealand including the rebuilt Hobbiton in Matamata.

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