Man, can a multi-billion dollar franchise not catch a break? After years of delays, following the financial uncertainty over rights holders MGM, followed by the bailing of original helmer Guillermo Del Toro, and controversial labor issues in New Zealand, the two-part adaptation of "The Hobbit," the prequel to "Lord of the Rings" finally seemed to be moving ahead. Original cast members like Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis were finally locked in, and they were joined by new additions like Martin Freeman, in the lead role of Bilbo Baggins along with an extensive cast including Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott and Aidan Turner.
The film was heading for a start next month, ahead of a December 2012 release, but the run of bad luck on the project has continued, with reports originating with New Zealand site Stuff, and confirmed by Deadline, that some medical issues for director Peter Jackson are likely to delay the start date for the project, although only briefly.
Jackson was admitted to the hospital Wednesday night with acute stomach pains, which turned out to be caused by a perforated stomach ulcer-- when a hole is burned through the stomach lining, allowing acid and food to enter the abdominal cavity. It's a painful and serious business; eerily, Middle-Earth creator J.R.R. Tolkien suffered the same complaint shortly before his death. Fortunately, Jackson seems to be recovering well -- he's undergone surgery, and a spokesman said, "Sir Peter is currently resting comfortably and his doctors expect him to make a full recovery." We're obviously glad he's ok, and wish the helmer a speedy recuperation.
The spokesman also suggested that it was unlikely to impact on "The Hobbit" beyond "a slight delay" to the start of filming: probably just a matter of days, if anything. Still, it's hard not to think that the movie gods feel that Jackson should be spending his time on something more rewarding than a bloated, fan-pandering adaptation of a dull book with barely enough drama for one film, let alone two.
Barring a string of gruesome "Final Destination"-style accidents befalling the cast and crew (and we recommend that Martin Freeman should stay away from lawnmowers, car washes and gas barbecues), final casting should be locked down any day now, and filming will begin in February, for a release date at the end of 2012.