Cate Blanchett, Ken Stott, Sylvester McCoy and Mikael Persbrandt have joined the cast of Peter Jackson's highly anticipated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic The Hobbit. Also joining them are Ryan Gage, Jed Brophy and William Kircher. The films, which are scheduled to commence principal photography in February 2011, mark Jackson's return to Middle-earth following his Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy. The announcement was made jointly today by Toby Emmerich, President and Chief Operating Officer, New Line Cinema, Alan Horn, President and Chief Operating Officer, Warner Bros. and Steve Cooper, co-Chief Executive Officer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

Jackson, who directed all three Lord of the Rings films, will helm the two films back-to-back, telling the story of The Hobbit in two parts from a screenplay by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro.

RELATED: 4K The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogies Are Finally Coming in December

Cate Blanchett (Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) will reprise her role from Lord of the Rings trilogy as Galadriel, the Lady of Lothlorien. Ken Stott (Charlie Wilson's War, TV's Rebus) will play the Dwarf Lord Balin, Sylvester McCoy (TV's Doctor Who) will play the wizard Radagast the Brown and well-known Swedish actor, Mikael Persbrandt (Everlasting Moments) will play the shape-shifter Beorn. British actor Ryan Gage (Outlaw, TV's Doctors) will play Drogo Baggins, with New Zealand actors Jed Brophy (Lord of the Rings trilogy, District 9) playing the role of the dwarf Nori, and William Kircher (Out of the Blue; TV's Legend of the Seeker) rounding out the company of Thorin Oakensheild in role of the dwarf Bifur.

Peter Jackson welcomed the news of Cate Blanchett's return to Middle-earth "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." On the casting of Scottish actor Ken Stott, Jackson commented "Fran and I have long been fans of Ken's work and are excited he will be joining us on this journey." Jackson also welcomed the addition to the cast of Swedish actor, Mikael Persbrandt, saying, "The role of Beorn is an iconic one and Mikael was our first choice for the part. Since seeing him read for the role we can't imagine anyone else playing this character."

The actors join the previously announced cast including Martin Freeman (TV's Sherlock, Breaking and Entering) as Bilbo Baggins, Richard Armitage (upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger), Aidan Turner (TV's Being Human), Robert Kazinsky (TVs EastEnders), Graham McTavish (Secretariat), John Callen (TV's Power Rangers Jungle Fury), Stephen Hunter (TV's All Saints), Mark Hadlow (King Kong) and Peter Hambleton (TV's The Strip). Additional cast announcements include James Nesbitt (Millions and TV's Cold Feet) and newcomer Adam Brown.

Since The Hobbit films received a green light on October 15, pre-production has been in full swing with release dates targeted for December, 2012 and December, 2013. Jackson will utilize groundbreaking visual effects and his incomparable storytelling to bring J.R.R. Tolkien's novel to the big screen. Both Hobbit movies will be filmed in Digital 3-D, using the latest camera and stereo technology to create a high quality, comfortable viewing experience.

The two films are being co-produced by New Line Cinema and MGM, with New Line managing production, Warner Bros Pictures handling domestic distribution and MGM distributing internationally.

Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Carolynne Cunningham are producing the films, with co-writer Philippa Boyens serving as co-producer and Ken Kamins and Zane Weiner as executive producers. The Oscar-winning, critically acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy, also from the production team of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Carolynne Cunningham, grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide at the box office.. In 2003, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return of The King swept the Academy Awards, winning all of the 11 categories in which it was nominated, including Best Picture - the first ever Best Picture win for a fantasy film. The trilogy's production was also unprecedented at the time.