Martin Freeman Indeed First Choice For Bilbo In 'The Hobbit,' May Still Play The Part

Yesterday there was a rumor, sourced from the UK tabloid The Sun, that Martin Freeman was being courted to play Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, and that he'd turned down the role because of his commitment to the BBC series Sherlock. I was dismissive of the report because The Sun doesn't exactly have a magnificent track record. (It's positively dismal, actually.)

But a new report says that not only was Freeman the first choice to play Bilbo, but that negotiations are ongoing that could still see him in the part.

EW quotes unnamed sources close to The Hobbit, which say that New Line and MGM are working with Freeman to find a schedule that would allow him to do both Sherlock and The Hobbit. That would be a huge deal for the actor, who already has a sizable presence in the UK thanks to The Office and Sherlock. If he did both Hobbit films, he'd make a serious amount of money, and possibly see himself targeted for much bigger roles in the States, should he want them.

(Though The Lord of the Rings films didn't really bump most of the central cast, who were perhaps too closely associated with their Middle Earth roles afterwards.)

But what about the state of MGM? The deal which could see Spyglass Entertainment assuming control of the beleagured studio inched closer to completion today. The LA Times reports that company "founders Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum have signed a non-binding letter of intent to take over the management of MGM as co-chairmen and co-CEOs." That's just one step, though. If the deal goes through, which could take at least another month, Barber and Birnbaum will have to downsize MGM's staff and then come up with a source of capital to fund new films. (That could come from Ken Schapiro and Amir Malin's private media investment fund Qualia Capital, which has already proposed a $500m cash infusion to MGM.)