Land of the Rings
First picture of hobbit's secret pounds 120m movie kingdom
WELCOME to Middle Earth, home of the hobbit, in the far-off setting of...New Zealand.
For this is where JRR Tolkien's classic books are being turned into the second most expensive movie production of all time.
The fantasy world of Frodo and Baggins will be made into three Lord of the Rings films.
Production began this week at a secret hillside location in New Zealand's capital Wellington where Hobbiton, seen here in The Mirror's exclusive picture for the first time, has been recreated. The cast - headed by Oscar nominee Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, and Britons Sir Ian McKellen, Sean Bean and Timothy Spall - are assembling for a year-long shoot.
From Hobbiton Frodo, played by American youngster Elijah Wood, sets out on his treacherous journey to save the hobbits from the powers of darkness, led by veteran Dracula star Christopher Lee as the evil wizard Saruman.
Director Peter Jackson, whose pounds 120million budget is topped only by Titanic, says his home country is a perfect backdrop in which to recreate the magical continent of the furry-footed human-like hobbits.
The New Zealand army helped with the massive earth-moving task of building Hobbiton.
Massive computer power will be used for battle scenes.
A team of elderly members of a knitting circle is producing lightweight armour for the thousands of extras.
The first of the three films, The Fellowship of the Ring, is due for release in 2001.
The Hobbit, first published in 1937, has sold 30 million copies worldwide and The Lord of the Rings more than 50 million.
Oxford professor Tolkien died in 1973, aged 81.