Guillermo Del Toro announced today that he is no longer directing the two movies based on J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, but will continue to co-write the screenplays. Out of respect to the legions of loyal Tolkien fans, both Guillermo and Peter Jackson wanted to break the news to The One Ring first. They are both committed to protecting The Hobbit and will do everything in their power to ensure the films are everything that the fans want them to be.
“In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming “The Hobbit,” I am faced with the hardest decision of my life”, says Guillermo. “After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wlsh the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director”.
“We feel very sad to see Guillermo leave the Hobbit, but he has kept us fully in the loop and we understand how the protracted development time on these two films, due to reasons beyond anyone’s control – has compromised his commitment to other long term projects”, says Executive Producer Peter Jackson. “The bottom line is that Guillermo just didn’t feel he could commit six years to living in New Zealand, exclusively making these films, when his original commitment was for three years. Guillermo is one of the most remarkable creative spirits I’ve ever encountered and it has been a complete joy working with him. Guillermo’s strong vision is engrained into the scripts and designs of these two films, which are extremely fortunate to be blessed with his creative DNA”.
“Guillermo is co-writing the Hobbit screenplays with Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and myself, and happily our writing partnership will continue for several more months, until the scripts are fine tuned and polished” says Jackson. “New Line and Warner Bros will sit down with us this week, to ensure a smooth and uneventful transition, as we secure a new director for the Hobbit. We do not anticipate any delay or disruption to ongoing pre-production work”.
Just last week at a Splice press conference del Toro said that he was not planning to make The Hobbit in 3-D: "We have designed all the creatures, the sets, the wardrobe, animatics and planned action sequences and we are very, very prepared for when it is finally triggered. We don’t know anything until MGM is solved.”
Jackson and del Toro had planned to make The Hobbit as two movies, co-produced by New Line Cinema and MGM (UA acquired rights in 1969), set to open in December 2012 and December 2013. But Del Toro is supposed to take on other directing assignments after The Hobbit. He continues to co-write with Chuck Hogan The Strain horror novels and to develop his own Disney Double Dare You label. Possible projects include: for his first-look Universal deal, remakes of Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and adaptations of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Dan Simmons' Drood, plus Roald Dahl's The Witches and At The Mountains Of Madness. (All of del Toro's projects are listed here.)
So if del Toro isn't directing The Hobbit, who will? The most obvious choice is The Lord of the Rings' Peter Jackson, who could use a hit after The Lovely Bones.
According to Jackson's manager, Ken Kamins, the writer-producer can't consider "that at this time because he has and has had other commitments and obligations to other projects. That said, he and Fran will stop at nothing to protect this franchise and the investment made by New Line, Warners and MGM." In the meantime, Jackson continues to work on Tintin with director Steven Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy, and "will turn his attention to Tintin 2 in the new year." UPDATE: Jackson tells The Dominion Post in New Zealand that he would direct the films only:
...if what I have to do to protect Warner Bros’ investment, then obviously that’s one angle which I’ll explore…The other studios may not let me out of the contracts.
So, assuming it's not Jackson, who do we want to see direct this? (Not Bret Rattner, please.) Sam Raimi, who went up for it, seems ideal: he's my first choice after Jackson. He gets this universe.
Here are some suggestions culled from Twitter: David Fincher, Bill Condon, Neill Blomkamp, David Slade, Danny Boyle, someone from Pixar, Julie Taymor, David Cronenberg, Robert Rodriguez. ADDS: Andrew Adamson, Peter Weir, Alfonso Cuaron. The Playlist has five (I lost all respect for Neil Marshall after The Centurion), while Hitfix posts 17 to consider.