Taking time out from canvassing for the Scottish National Party and a break from offers to advertise Japanese whisky, Sean Connery is in advanced talks with a US studio to star in what will be one of the biggest films ever embarked on. He is the front-runner to take the lead role in the Tinseltown-backed adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s trilogy, *Lord of the Rings*. The film version is being backed by New Line Cinema, the studio behind such blockbusters as *Mortal Combat*, with New Zealand director Peter Jackson taking the chair. Connery would play Gandalf, the wizard who leads the Hobbits in their battle against Dark Lord Sauron. The three Tolkien films, which will shoot back-to-back starting this September, were originally budgeted at a collective $130m when New Line agreed to take over the financing of the project from Miramax Films in return for worldwide distribution and merchandising rights. But now figures being bandied about are much higher with all three costing more than even *Titanic*, which included the world’s most expensive ice cube. Like the upcoming *Star Wars* trilogy, Jackson’s heavily-shrouded project has provoked endless Internet discussion as it nears the projected September 19 start date. Jackson, like George Lucas before him, is no stranger to the use of digital effects and is expected to draw on his state-of-the-art digital effects facility he had built in New Zealand. The ambitious Kiwi director is expected to create the legions of hobbits, orcs, elves and goblins that make up Tolkien’s mythical world of Middle Earth in his backyard. A portion of the year-long production schedule for the first film may even be shot in Europe with a Christmas 2000 release date penciled in for the first episode, *The Fellowship Of The Ring*. But it still remains to be seen whether Jackson will follow the example of George Lucas and shoot the entire film digitally. Whether Connery decides to pick up Gandalf’s staff or not, the film adaptation is likely to be one of the most talked about movie projects of next year. With its expansive story, intricate fantasy world settings, big production costs and the lure of Tolkien’s original brilliance, actors will be queuing up to play a part.