An actor signing on for film nearly a year after it has begun production is not normal practice in Hollywood - but, then again, there's very little that's "normal" about Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit.
From the two-movie structure of the estimated $500 million project - to the use of revolutionary 3D camera technology, even while shooting takes place around the New Zealand countryside - Jackson's live-action treatment of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved fantasy novel is the sort of immense (and costly) undertaking that studios would rarely trust any filmmaker to handle. Unless they're the same fellow who directed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, that is.
That's all to say: today, some eleven months after principal photography began on The Hobbit, the films' cast has at last been completed - with the addition of an esteemed Scottish actor, as (what else) a dwarf.
Jackson himself has announced that the final piece to the puzzle that is the Hobbit movies' vast cast is Billy Connolly, yet another UK-born character actor whose diverse resume includes roles in The Boondocks Saints, The Last Samurai, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and The X-Files: I Want to Believe - not to mention, kiddie fare both good (Muppet Treasure Island) and not-so-good (Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties). The Scotsman will also be lending his voice to Pixar's upcoming original princess fairy tale, Brave.
Connolly will appear in The Hobbit as Dáin II Ironfoot, a second cousin to Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), who leads the expedition to take back Erebor from the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Dáin - who Jackson also describes as "the staunchest and toughest of Dwarves" - will presumably not show up onscreen until the second Hobbit installment, subtitled There and Back Again, as he will play an important role in that darker and heavier chapter from young Bilbo Baggins' (Martin Freeman) grand adventure.
Other than that casting tidbit, there's not much more to say about The Hobbit, at this point. The teaser trailer for the first installment (subtitled An Unexpected Journey) certainly has fantasy fans of all shades stoked for a return to Middle-earth. While there is understandably some lingering concern about whether or not Jackson and Co. can truly recapture the wonder and magic of the Rings trilogy, what we've seen and heard about their new Tolkien project to date has been more than enough to keep us (and most everyone else) hopeful.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrives in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters around the U.S. on December 14th, 2012.
The Hobbit: There and Back Again will hit theaters a year later, on December 13th, 2013.
Source: New Line/Warner Bros., Peter Jackson