'The Hobbit': Photos from set of Peter Jackson's upcoming epic starring Martin Freeman

hobbit-peter-jackson.jpgIt hasn't been an easy road for "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson when it comes to the prequel, "The Hobbit," especially considering Guillermo Del Toro was initially hired to direct. Luckily, the papers have been signed and the sets have been built and it's official: Principal photography has begun on the first film in New Zealand.

"The Hobbit" is planned to be split into two separate films, with a $500 million budget and a whole lot of high expectations from fans of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and of the J.R.R. Tolkien novel. Starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, the film also boasts "Lord of the Rings" stars Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, and Christopher Lee, amongst others.

Jackson posted the first photos from the set of the film on his Facebook, which should serve as an exciting tease for his potential audience. They reflect the whimsy and attention to detail that made the hobbit homes in "Lord of the Rings" so endearing, and they also show a pleased-looking Jackson, who, unsurprisingly, looks right at home back in Middle-earth.

What do you think of the new pics? Are you psyched? It's going to be a long countdown -- the film isn't due for release until the end of 2012.

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Photo/Video credit: Peter Jackson/WETA
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