According to Sir Christopher Lee's official website, the 88-year-old actor will appear in The Hobbit to reprise his role as the wizard Saruman, as long as "he is in good health." We haven't heard that Lee is experiencing any particular health issues (and we certainly hope that continues to be the case) so this sounds like strong confirmation.
It's been a long time since I've read The Hobbit, but I don't recall Saruman being featured in the book. Nevertheless, when you have a thespian like Lee onboard, your movie is going to be markedly improved, so I'm all for it. After all, Jackson and company changed around many of the plot details for each Lord of the Rings film, and they are modern classics.
In addition to Christopher Lee's likely return, there are also fresh rumors that former Doctor Who star David Tennant will join the cast of The Hobbit. In the past, Tennant was rumored to be up for a number of parts in The Hobbit, including the main role of Bilbo Baggins back in 2009, before Martin Freeman was cast in the film.
Now, according to an unsubstantiated rumor at MovieWeb, Tennant has allegedly joined the cast of The Hobbit as the Elf King Thranduil. Thranduil, for those not up on their Tolkien mythology, is also the father of Legolas (played by Orlando Bloom in Lord of the Rings). MovieWeb doesn't say where it got the information about Tennant's involvement in the film, but if Thranduil were in the film, it would make sense since Bloom was confirmed to be reprising his role as Legolas in December.
As The Hobbit continues to take shape, the project is beginning to sound more and more epic. I may just have to watch Lord of the Rings back-to-back-to-back to stave off my excitement.
The Hobbit: Part 1 hits theaters on December 19th, 2012. Part 2 comes out in December 2013.
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