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CONNERY TOUTED FOR ROLE OF GANDALF

; Quelle: TBHL

Three British stars are reported to be front runners for roles in Miramar filmaker Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, according to the Press Association. In a showbiz bulletin sent out this week,PA reported that Sean Connery was being touted for the role of Gandalf while Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek:The Next Generation) and Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet) were said to be waiting in the wings. American actor Danny deVito was favourite for the role of pint size Bilbo Baggins.

But noone at WingNut will comment. Director Peter Jackson and producer Tim Sanders were unavailable. A WingNut spokeswoman said there had been a directive from the United States that there is to be no more publicity until an announcement is made.

The directive came from US company New Line Cinema, which has put up $260 million to turn JR R Tolkiens fantasy trilogy into a film trilogy. Rumours that Connery would be involved have been circulating for months - his name was touted on the internet before Jackson officially announced last August he was making Lord of the Rings. A Wingnut Films spokesman said then that Connery hadn't been cast. Dan cox a reporter for Los angeles newspaper Variety, said he didn't think anyone had been signed for the project.

Connery's California based publicist couldn't be contacted. Jackson said in December that he wasn't looking for big name stars. Casting has begun and The Post understands that actors auditioning for the project have received scripts.

The Lord of the Rings will employ 15,000 extras, 50 New Zealand actors for speaking parts and 300 crew. Filming is due to begin mid-year.

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