Cate Blanchett joins cast of ‘The Hobbit’

Thesps Ken Stott, Sylvester McCoy and Mikael Persbrandt also set

Cate Blanchett, Ken Stott, Sylvester McCoy and Mikael Persbrandt have joined the cast of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” films.

New Line and MGM also announced Tuesday that Ryan Gage, Jed Brophy and William Kircher have also been cast. The co-financers said that Jackson remains on track to begin shooting the back-to-back pics in February.

Blanchett will reprise her role from “Lord of The Rings” trilogy as elf ruler Galadriel. “Cate is one of my favorite actors to work with and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her reprise the role she so beautifully brought to life in the earlier films,” Jackson said.

Stott will portray the Dwarf Lord Balin; McCoy is slotted to play the wizard Radagast the Brown; and Swedish thesp Persbrandt will play the shape-shifter Beorn.

British actor Gage will play Drogo Baggins. New Zealand actors Jed Brophy (who was also in the “Lord of The Rings” trilogy) will portray the dwarf Nori and William Kircher (“Out of the Blue”) is signed to portray the dwarf Bifur.

Previously announced cast includes Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner, Rob Kazinsky, Graham McTavish, John Callen, Stephen Hun-ter, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, James Nesbitt and newcomer Adam Brown.

“The Hobbit” films received a greenlight on Oct. 15 and have release dates targeted for December 2012 and December 2013 with New Line and MGM co-producing, New Line managing production, Warner Bros. handling domestic distribution and MGM distributing internationally.

Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Carolynne Cunningham are producing the films, with Phillipa Boyens serving as co-producer and Ken Kamins exec producing. Jackson is also directing.

Jackson, Walsh and Cunningham produced the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

New Line, MGM and Warner Bros. (parent of New Line) agreed three years ago to join up on a bigscreen version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novel about the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, who obtains the ring that was the centerpiece of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy of books and films.

The studios reached a settlement agreement in late October with the New Zealand government, which agreed to change its labor laws and sweeten production incentives in exchage for keeping “The Hobbit” in New Zealand.

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