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'The Hobbit': Meet the new faces

English-born Martin Freeman portrays Bilbo Baggins in "The

English-born Martin Freeman portrays Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

In creating "The Hobbit," director Peter Jackson has made use of the most advanced movie technology, and some bona fide movie stars: Ian McKellen reprises Gandalf the wizard, the role he played for Jackson in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy; likewise the legendary Christopher Lee, who returns as Saruman the wizard, and Cate Blanchett, whose Galadriel, a royal Elf, doesn't actually appear in the Tolkien "Hobbit" but is given a minor role the new movie, and appeared throughout the trilogy.

Many of the key roles in the new film, however, have been filled by actors little known to American audiences. Some of those parts and people are as follows:

BILBO BAGGINS The Hobbit of the title is played by English-born Martin Freeman, probably best known in America for his roles in "Love Actually," "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and the U.K version of "The Office." He also appears opposite Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Watson in the British "Sherlock," which may or may not have inspired the CBS series "Elementary."

THORIN OAKENSHIELD The leader of the 13 Dwarves out to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the dragon is played by Richard Armitage, another English actor who has made his career mainly on U.K. TV and includes among his credits the role of Lucas North on the popular import "MI-5."

THE GREAT GOBLIN Probably the most disgusting character in Jackson's film -- and the one who takes Bilbo, Thorin and the rest of the Dwarves hostage at the Misty Mountain -- is played by Australian Barry Humphries, whose Dame Edna Everage is one of the great cross-dressing creations of modern times.

BOFUR THE DWARF Perhaps the cleverest of the 13 intrepid short people is played by James Nesbitt, one of those actors a lot of Americans know without knowing his name. His films include last year's "Coriolanus," Emilio Estevez's "The Way" and the 2002 "Bloody Sunday," directed by Paul Greengrass ("The Bourne Ultimatum").

GOLLUM The possessor of the "precious" Ring is portrayed by Andy Serkis, who's probably no stranger to most movie fans, having played the creepily sinister Gollum in the "Rings" trilogy, but his roles often call for him to travel incognito: One of his more prominent roles in recent years was Caesar, the chief chimp in the acclaimed "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

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