WELLINGTON, New Zealand – The cast members of “The Hobbit” on Friday declared themselves ready for the cameras to roll on the next edition of mythical adventures from Middle Earth, after months of production trouble.

Hollywood studio funding problems, a threatened actors’ boycott and ulcer surgery for director Peter Jackson have plagued pre-production on the $500 million, two-movie project.

Some cast members spoke to reporters Friday on location in New Zealand and said they were putting the troubled history behind them.

“We’re all optimistic, ready to go,” said English actor Martin Freeman, who will play Bilbo Baggins.

Freeman and 13 actors who play dwarf characters said they enjoyed the first month of preproduction, in which they trained in the gym, rode horses and practiced dialect to prepare for scenes depicting long journeys and dramatic battles between good and evil.

The twin movies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel about a short, hairy-footed hero are expected to take up to two years to make, with the first timed for release in late 2012.

“The Hobbit” is a prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy by Tolkien that Jackson helmed to blockbuster film success in 2001-03, winning best-picture and best-director Oscars for the finale.

Taylor hospitalized with heart condition

LOS ANGELES — Elizabeth Taylor has been hospitalized for treatment of congestive heart failure.

Her spokeswoman, Sally Morrison, said Friday that the Oscar-winning actress had been admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center within the past couple of days.

Taylor, 78, is being treated for symptoms caused by congestive heart failure, a condition she’s suffered from for several years.

Morrison said it’s unknown how long Taylor might be in the hospital. She added that Taylor’s family appreciated the support from fans, but asked for privacy to allow the medical team space to do its work.

Capt. Colbert says ‘Aye, aye’ to yacht race

NEW YORK – Stephen Colbert is taking on the sea.

The comedian announced Friday that he will embark on the biennial OnDeck Charleston Bermuda Race on May 11. Colbert and crew will sail a 65-foot racing yacht on the 777-mile race from his native Charleston, S.C., to Bermuda.

The “Colbert Report” host plans to make the adventure a focal point on his show, treating it with far more bombast than Captain Ahab ever did.

Colbert says in a statement: “The ocean has had a free ride too long. Well, it has to deal with me now. Brace yourself, Atlantic!”

Gilmour has a date — in court

LONDON – The son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour appeared in court Friday to face charges that he was involved in an attack on a royal convoy during violent student protests.

Charlie Gilmour, 21, allegedly took part in a mob attack on cars accompanying a limo carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, as they drove along a busy London street amid a student protest that turned violent.

He was among thousands of students who crowded London’s streets on Dec. 9 to protest rising university tuition.

Prosecutor Simon Clements said Gilmour sat on the hood of a car carrying royal protection officers, and threw a garbage can at the convoy cars.

Gilmour, a Cambridge University history student, shocked many in Britain when he was photographed swinging from the Union Jack attached to the Cenotaph, Britain’s most important war memorial, during the rally.

He issued an apology the day after.

Ah-nold as actor: ‘I’m back’

LOS ANGELES – After seven years in the California governor’s mansion, Arnold Schwarzenegger is returning to his old day job: acting.

Schwarzenegger wrote on Twitter that he’s ready to start considering film roles again.

The former governor tweeted Thursday night: “Exciting news. My friends at CAA have been asking me for 7 years when they can take offers seriously. Gave them the green light today.”

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