Cate Blanchett joins 'The Hobbit'

Peter Jackson is bringing Cate Blanchett ( The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) aboard his adaptation of the epic story of The Hobbit. The Australian actress will play Galadriel, her character from the director's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Since the elvish queen, Galadriel the Lady of Lothlorien, does not appear in J.R.R. Tolkien's novel The Hobbit, nor do any other significant female characters, Blanchett's role has been added to the screenplay, co-written by director Guillermo del Toro ( Pan's Labyrinth).

In the announcement Jackson welcomed 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."

Other actors joining the cast were announced  December 7. They include Ken Stott ( Charlie Wilson's War) as Dwarf Lord Balin, Sylvester McCoy (TV's Doctor Who) as the wizard Radagast the Brown and Sweden's Mikael Persbrandt ( Everlasting Moments) who will play the shape-shifter Beorn.

Not officially announced yet, Sir Ian McKellan has posted on his website, according to Entertainment Weekly, that he expects to reprise his role as the wizard Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a character who does appear in The Hobbit book.

The Hobbit will be shot in two parts and in 3D. Production is scheduled to begin in February with release dates of December 2012 and December 2013.