Shooting on Peter Jackson's two Hobbit movies will finally get underway on 21 March, Reuters reports.
The pair of Lord of the Rings prequels were originally slated for release in 2010 and 2011, but have been been hit by a series of delays as well as the departure of director Guillermo del Toro over "issues around the funding of the films".
At one point, Warner Brothers threatened to shift the projects out of New Zealand, prompted by fears that union action could hit production. Now, though, Jackson himself will take the helm at Stone Street Studios in Wellington and on location in his native land.
As we previously noted, the first film will be an adaptation of The Hobbit, and will hit the big screen in December 2012.
The second - slated for release a year later - is an "original story" bridging the 60-year gap between Tolkien's first Middle Earth outing and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The cast of the two films includes Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Ken Stott, Reuters notes. ®