Thesp to play archer Bard the Bowman in New Line pics

Welsh actor Luke Evans has been cast in “The Hobbit” as the archer Bard the Bowman.

New Line confirmed the casting Thursday. Plans are for Evans — who will be seen next as Aramis in Constantin’s “The Three Musketeers” — to begin shooting his parts in August. In the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, Bard slays the dragon Smaug.

Evans will be seen in November as Zeus in Relativity’s “Immortals” and next year opposite John Cusack in “The Raven.” He’s due to start filming next week in the indie “No One Lives.”

Producer-director Peter Jackson shot the first segments of the back-to-back pics in March and went on hiatus earlier this month for editing and visual effects work along with prepping for the next round of shooting.

Jackson has recently cast Stephen Fry to play the role of Master of Laketown and Orlando Bloom to reprise his role as Legolas in “The Hobbit.” Cast includes Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen and Cate Blanchett reprising their roles from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien novel is set 60 years before “Lord of the Rings,” with Bilbo the unassuming Hobbit who becomes a hero by obtaining a powerful ring in the face of challenges by the wicked Gollum and Smaug.

The screenplays are penned by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson. Jackson is also producing the films, together with Fran Walsh and Carolynne Cunningham; exec producers are Ken Kamins and Zane Weiner, with Philippa Boyens serving as co-producer.

New Line parent Warner Bros. reached a deal in January to handle worldwide distribution on “The Hobbit,” taking over most international distribution and homevideo on the two films from MGM in exchange for funding MGM’s half of the production costs. The “Hobbit” pics are aimed for release in December 2012 and December 2013.

Evans is repped by WME and Luber Roklin in the United States and by United Agents in the U.K.

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