“The Hobbit” still has not been officially greenlighted, but director Peter Jackson is in Los Angeles this week quietly meeting with actors. The casting trip, which also included stops in New York and the U.K., underscores the progress being made on a complex series of deals to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novel to the big screen.

Sources say Jackson’s pact with Warner Bros. to direct the two-part “Hobbit” adaptation is close to done, but the sticking point continues to be the dire financial situation at MGM, which holds half the rights to the property. More..