There’s a party in Middle Earth and everyone’s invited. According to Deadline Andy Serkis has closed his deal to return as Gollum in The Hobbit, and Ian McKellen is “poised to return” as Gandalf (although his deal is still being worked out). Update: THR say McKellen is confirmed!
Not only that, Deadline mentions that Christopher Lee is in talks to reprise his role as Saruman, and Ian Holm is set to return as an older version of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman is playing the younger one).
This means we can expect to see most of the major players from The Lord of the Rings trilogy (however briefly) in The Hobbit. We’ve already heard about Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom and Cate Blanchett returning as Frodo, Legolas and Galadriel, and we can probably expect to hear about a few more as the February start date draws near.
Christopher Lee (who is approaching the grand age of 89) said back in 2008 that he would “be interested in seeing how [Saruman's] transition from good to evil occurred and, yes, of course I would return to the role if I was asked.” However he said travelling all the way to New Zealand would be “simply too far away” for him, but if they managed to set something up in London he would be interested. The actor also expressed interest in voicing Smaug, so we’ll have to see how that goes.
It looks like Peter Jackson and the team are trying to get as many familiar faces to return as possible, which I’m all for. Some characters may not have been mentioned directly in the book but they were still around. I wonder if we’ll see other characters such as Arwen, Aragorn or Gimli?