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Irish actor James Nesbitt, cast as the dwarf Bofur, said the union row had not affected the project.

“That’s something that’s in the past and now we’re moving forward on this,” he told The Associated Press. “We’re here to do this fabulous job and we’re looking forward to it.”

Freeman, whose films include “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Hot Fuzz” but who may be best known from Ricky Gervais’ “The Office” television comedy, said playing Baggins was the role of a lifetime.

“I’m not often grateful to people who employ me,” he said, adding, “I’m extremely chuffed about it.”