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Who Will Direct The Hobbit, With Del Toro Moving On? Not Jackson, for Now

by Anne Thompson
May 30, 2010 12:35 PM
9 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

Soon after revealing that he was waiting for the dust to clear at MGM so he could get on with The Hobbit, Guillermo del Toro, one of Hollywood's hottest directors after Pan's Labyrinth and Hell Boy 2, is quitting The Hobbit because he can't keep his career on hold any longer; he's already been on the project for two years. He and The Hobbit co-writer-executive producer Peter Jackson made the announcement on May 30 at Theonering.net.

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.

9 Comments

  • Anne Thompson | May 31, 2010 8:39 AMReply

    Guillermo del Toro is a talented director with extraordinary visual gifts who has the same ability that Jackson has--to connect audiences with another magical universe--to make them believe. It's a rare ability. He also dreams up characters, designs, and worlds, the way Lucas, Cameron, Burton and Jackson do. He's in their league.

    Much of the work he has done will be seen in the final movie. And he worked with Jackson and his team...so it's a collaboration, too.

  • Mark | May 31, 2010 8:27 AMReply

    Geoffrey Peter is absolutely correct.

  • KaMeek Lucas Taitt | May 31, 2010 8:26 AMReply

    Seriously... What established filmmaker will sign away to this film for the next 3 or 4 years when so much of the ground work has been laid by another director? Directors too have massive egos and no matter what they do, they'll be in the shadow of Del Toro's already laid out pre-vis for the action sequences and all the work he did.

  • Geoffrey Peter | May 31, 2010 5:37 AMReply

    Maybe it's just me but...

    Does anyone really want two plates of Tolkien brand jerky prepared by a cook after having three plates of Tolkien brand steak prepared by a chef?

  • Trekker 42 | May 31, 2010 3:32 AMReply

    Anyone else think Nolan should take a crack at Middle Earth?

    Barring my favorite director ever (Nolan), it seems that J.J. Abrams succeeds at most everything he touches. Sam Rami would be nice. And it seems, as he's not directing the Avengers, Jon Favreau is free to direct until Iron Man 3. And as he won't have to throw the script together last second like Pirates 2 and 3, Gore Verbinski has managed to create a stunning fantasy world in that trilogy.
    And if none of those work just give me a Harry Potter director that ISN'T Chris Columbus who has managed to make basically 2 good movies in his lifetime: Harry Potter 1 and 2.
    Let's just hope it's NOT Michael Bay or Uwe Boll. After all, Jackson did promise he's protecting the films. I hope that includes from crap directors.

  • Kevin Ketchum | May 31, 2010 3:24 AMReply

    I would suggest Neill Blomkamp or Andrew Adamson. Sam Raimi is too campy for this franchise, and after ruining Spider-Man, he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt from me ever again. Blomkamp has already had one hugely successful collaboration with Peter Jackson, I see no reason it couldn't work again, as they clearly have the same vision on a lot of things.

    Andrew Adamson gets high recommendations on the basis that he's already been extremely successful with the first two Narnia films, why not let him loose in Middle Earth as well? He shot the two Narnia films in New Zealand, and worked with Weta, so it's an obvious choice, really.

  • Edward Wilson | May 31, 2010 3:18 AMReply

    Keep del Toro away from Vonnegut.

  • Ryan Gallagher | May 31, 2010 3:00 AMReply

    I'd also like to see Neil Marshall, Tarsem, Steven Soderbergh, Danny Boyle or Alfonso Cuaron.

  • Ryan Gallagher | May 31, 2010 2:57 AMReply

    I also propose that Jean Pierre Jeunet have his name on the list of potential directors, especially now that he has come out in support of 3D (having wished he could shoot Micmacs in 3D). Jeunet's magical realist style would be a nice addition to the franchise.

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