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Director Peter Jackson finds more stories to tell in ‘The Hobbit’

Gollum is played by Andy Serkis fantasy adventure 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.' | Warner Bros. Pictures/MGM

Gollum is played by Andy Serkis in the fantasy adventure "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." | Warner Bros. Pictures/MGM

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Updated: January 10, 2013 6:18AM

NEW YORK — You know that scratchy voice. You’ve seen the complexion that makes Kate Moss look like she’s tan.

You wait for the words. “Where are you, my precccciouuuussss?” he screams.

Every epic film needs a beginning. In a cave in New Zealand, Peter Jackson began his 18-month shoot for “The Hobbit” with just two men, if you can call them that.

It came down to a Hobbit named Bilbo and a creature known as Gollum. Hint: They don’t meet cute.

Poor Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) actually was trying to figure out how not to end up a meal for the starving cave dweller (Andy Serkis). When he finds a little ring, he slips it into his vest pocket as a Middle-earth souvenir.

Epic problem!

“I felt so sorry for Martin Freeman the first day of shooting,” director Peter Jackson admits. “He had Andy Serkis coming at him full energy with a lost ring and a rumbling stomach.”

These are good problems for Jackson, who won Oscars for these types of fantasy issues with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first film in a new trilogy based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, follows mild-mannered Bilbo on his quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug.

He’s joined by Wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and 13 dwarves including legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). They’re joined along the way by Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, plus a new baddie called Necromancer.

Returning to Middle-earth are Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Ian Holm as Old Bilbo, Christopher Lee as Saruman, Hugo Weaving as Elrond and Elijah Wood as Frodo.

Why three movies?

“It’s a very good question. It surprised us as well,” says Jackson. “We were originally doing two films. It’s a question of what you leave out. Major events are covered in two or three pages.

“Once you develop the scenes and adapt the appendix from ‘Return of the King,’ we expanded ‘The Hobbit’ and tied it into ‘Lord of the Rings.’ We had the material to do it.”

At first, Jackson wasn’t going to direct the film.

“I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it. I thought I’d be competing against myself,” he says. “Guillermo Del Toro was involved for a year as a director, but then he left after delays.

“When he left, I thought, ‘I am enjoying this.’ I came to realize that there is a lot of charm and a lot of humor in ‘The Hobbit’ that ‘Rings’ didn’t have. I wanted to return to Middle-earth.

“I knew this was not ‘Lord of the Rings.’ This was something different.”

He had only one choice for the iconic character of Bilbo.

“Martin was the only person we ever wanted for the role. It was before we met him. We knew him from ‘The Office,’ ” Jackson says. “We just felt he had qualities that were perfect for Bilbo — that fussy, English, slightly repressed quality. He also has a rare comedic skill. There’s a lot more comedy in ‘The Hobbit.’ ”

Martin was locked into playing Dr. Watson on the English “Sherlock” TV series. “I was tormenting myself by watching ‘Sherlock’ on my iPad,” Jackson admits. “I was looking at Martin thinking, ‘There is nobody better.’ ”

Somehow they found a way to accommodate both shooting schedules.

A technological leap for this trilogy means Middle-earth will be seen not just in 3-D, but also in some cinemas at 48 frames per second, twice the norm.

“It’s the 48 that allows 3D to achieve its potential. You have a sharper picture, which creates more of a three dimension world,” Jackson says. “It was, however, a leap of faith. At the time we started shooting, there was not a motion picture house in the world that could show that type of film.

“We had to wait for them to catch up.”

A few viewers have mentioned headaches. “Your brain must resolve the pictures,” Jackson says. “I think it’s a smooth experience. It’s also just different. As human beings, we’re always resistant to what’s different.”

But this director didn’t mind the gamble.

“You see more and there is more detail,” Jackson says. “To me, fantasy should be as real as possible. You need to believe the world you’re going into, and the levels of detail are very important.

“I want you to leave the cinema seat and feel like you’re a part of it.”

Big Picture News Inc.

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