Amid disputes over where The Hobbit movies will be shot, director Peter Jackson and the executives behind film have announced the cast for the anticipated two-picture tale.

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Actor Martin Freeman, seen in 2007, gained fame on the original British TV series The Office. ((Andrew Medichini/Associated Press))

They say Martin Freeman will play hero Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage will portray Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the Company of Dwarves.

Jackson said in a statement Thursday that Freeman, who starred in the movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is "exactly like Bilbo, and I feel incredibly proud to be able to announce that he is our Hobbit." He called Armitage "one of the most exciting and dynamic actors working on screen today."

Other actors joining the ensemble cast are Aidan Turner, Graham McTavish, John Callen, Stephen Hunter, Mark Hadlow and Peter Hambleton.

The Hobbit, based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, began production in New Zealand earlier this month. The films are set for release in December 2012 and December 2013.