- Associated Press - Sunday, March 20, 2011

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) - Filming has started on director Peter Jackson’s production of “The Hobbit” in New Zealand.

The $50 million, two-movie production has suffered from a series of problems including studio funding problems, a threatened actors’ boycott and ulcer surgery for Jackson.

The director posted a studio press release on his web site on Monday announcing that production has commenced in New Zealand on the much-anticipated project.

British actor Martin Freeman will star as hobbit Bilbo Baggins alongside Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom in twin movies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel about a short, hairy-footed hero.

“The Hobbit” is a prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy by Tolkien that Jackson helmed to blockbuster film success.

(This version CORRECTS APNewsNow. Corrects typo in headline.)

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