(This post originally appeared on our sister site, FanSided.com.)
Update 11/19: AICN-Dowunder recently broke some big potential casting news, but unfortunately it wasn’t about who will be playing Bilbo. It was about the possibility of Brian Cox playing one of the dwarves. While that would be a fantastic choice, we’re still dying to hear who will play the lead — the one and only Bilbo Baggins.
I have also read that Tom Hollander is likely out of the running due to scheduling conflicts. Meanwhile, Martin Freeman’s Bilbo prospects are looking up, as fans have started a campaign for him to play the lead of The Hobbit on a facebook page. Other than that, there has been almost no news whatsoever on the casting of Bilbo Baggins….
Now that Guillermo Del Toro’s The Hobbit series can officially move forward, it’s time to find a Bilbo who can deliver the epic tale from story to screen. I’m not worried about Del Toro’s direction one bit, but finding the right Bilbo Baggins will make or break this upcoming two-movie series. Peter Jackson is also involved in the project, and after seeing how well The Lord of the Rings series casting went, fans should have faith that they’ll get it right once again.
Andy Serkis will return as Gollum and Ian McKellen will reprise his Gandalf role. Hugo Weaving also returns as Elrond. Casting the dwarves and Smaug (Ron Perlman’s voice) are important, but everything hinges on Bilbo. Unfortunately, Ian Holm is too old and unhealthy to return as Bilbo. That’s why I’ve scoured the Internet to put together a list of the best potential Bilbos. (Spoiler Alert: Daniel Radcliffe and Shia LeBouf did not make the list.)
10. John Billingsley – You’ve seen him in everything from True Blood to The X-Files, but Billingsley is best known for his work on Star Trek: Enterprise. I think Billingsley is often mentioned because he brings to mind the Bilbo from the 1977 animated The Hobbit. Personally, I don’t think he’s a great choice, even if he does have that look and possesses decent acting chops. I’ve seen nothing from him that would make me think he can help carry this series.
9. David Tennant – Personally, I don’t see the Scottish Tennant pulling off Bilbo, but Barty Crouch Jr. from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is on just about every list or forum thread I’ve seen yet. Since I’m sure Del Toro, Jackson and Co. are listening to fans, at least to some degree, I’m pretty sure Tennant has at least been considered.
8. Dominic Cooper - This theatrically trained English actor is a rising star, recently appearing in Mamma Mia! and The Duchess. He might look a little young for the role, but at 31 he’s not far off. Cooper has been linked to the role here and there, but probably isn’t a major contender to land the role. I’m really not sure how well he’d fit, but his fans are adament that he’d be a good choice.
7. Colin Firth – Accomplished English actor who sometimes looks very hobbitty (for instance, on his Wikipedia page), and at other times seems too good looking for the role. A veteran of a bunch of romantic comedies, I’m not sure he’s right for the part at all. The last thing Tolkien fans want to think of when they see Bilbo is Bridget Jones ‘Freakin Diary. Might as well cast Hugh Grant himself. Still, a lot of fans are clamoring for Firth.
6. Nick Frost – Look, I’m a fan of the English funnyman/Simon Pegg sidekick, but he’s just too much of a fatass. I know he’s the No. 1 contender in the eyes of a lot of fans, and maybe he could drop the poundage to be a good Bilbo, but I just can’t envision it. I think he’s too hefty. He would make a much, much better Bombur — the fattest and funniest of the 13 dwarves. Bombur develops a close relationship with Bilbo and will be a huge part of the film, providing much of its comic relief. Frost would be a perfect fit. Nonetheless, expect to hear his name frequently linked to the role of Bilbo until it’s cast.
5. Martin Freeman – This English actor is best known for his work on the UK version of The Office, and to a lot of fans looks most what Bilbo “is supposed to look like.” I liked his work in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so I would probably be fine with him being cast as the elder Baggins. Only time will tell if he’s a serious contender or a concoction of fanboy conjecture.
4. Tom Hollander – He’s not on a lot of lists, but the English actor is one of my favorites for the role. Not only could he pull of the hobbit look, the roles he played in The Pirates of the Caribbean series and Pride and Prejudice give me confidence that he could nail Bilbo. He even looks like Holm. Frodo is supposed to be 33 in The Fellowship of the Ring, while Bilbo is 111 (though he looks probably 60 or 70 thanks to the One Ring). In The Hobbit, Bilbo is 50-ish. Considering the on-screen age standard recently set by actors cast as hobbits, Hollander is probably the most ideal Bilbo age wise.
3. Colm Meany – If you saw Layer Cake, then you know he’s a badass. But is he a Bilbo? Sure, he’s Irish and has the hobbit-like curly locks, but just because he looks like a hobbit on a day-to-day basis, doesn’t “Meany” (couldn’t resist…sorry) he’d be a great or even good one. I think this is another rumor mongered by all those Tolkienites out there who are also Trekkies. Then again, I ran across Meany’s name a ton, maybe more than any other actor. That’s why he’s so high on the list.
2. James McAvoy – The Hobbit series will not have the star-studded ensemble cast of The Lord of the Rings series to lean on. The newer Tolkien franchise will need its Bilbo to strap the series to his back. The Scottish McAvoy has both the acting ability and star power to do just that. He’s the closest thing to an A-lister on this list, and this gig would make him an instant A-lister. Yes, the filmmakers have denied that he will be cast as Bilbo. So what? That’s kind of like the girl who tells you she’s not even thinking about sleeping with you, or the GM who said he’s had no conversations to trade X player to X team. We both know that those who aggressively come forth with denials are often hiding the truth. He remains a frontrunner.
1. Jim Sturgess – His star somewhat came into focus during 2007′s Across the Universe, yet he’s not nearly as famous as McAvoy, which is something the filmmakers will likely see as ideal. Much how Elijah Wood became Frodo before our eyes, they’ll want whomever to become Bilbo forever. They won’t want us seeing Mr. Tumnus or Wesley Gibson. I’m also guesstimating that like with The Lord of the Rings series, they might cast Bilbo a little younger than expected. Call it a hunch, but I think after the way Frodo turned out that Del Toro will say the same thing he said about keeping Serkis as Gollum — “if it ain’t broke.” Sturgess has the charisma and vulnerability to pull off a young Bilbo. Don’t be shocked if he nabs the role. He’s gotta be on the shortlist.