He’d moved to New Zealand and prepared to commit three years of his life to making the two prequels to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) has now had to back out of directing The Hobbit, although he will still be co-writing the screenplays. The Hobbit was set to be a co-production of New Line Cinema (aka Warner Bros.) and MGM, but the fact that the future of MGM itself is in flux means the expected starting date has been delayed and delayed, and Del Toro’s three-year commitment was growing into a six-year commitment, and that’s one he couldn’t honor due to responsibilities with other projects.
"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," Del Toro said. "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."
Peter Jackson, executive producer for The Hobbit and director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, had this to say. “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. 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.”
Jackson has said he might step in to direct the films if that’s “what I have to do to protect Warner Bros. investment,” but that certainly doesn’t sound like he’s eager to do it. He’s also pretty sure that his own commitments to other films will prevent him from doing it anyway. But he’s still committed to the project. “The key thing is that we don’t intend to shut the project down,” he insisted. “We don’t intend to let this affect the progress. Everybody, including the studio, wants to see things carry on as per normal. The idea is to make it as smooth a transition as we can.”
As for Del Toro, he’s a man who is constantly full of ideas for ambitious new projects. Among the things he’s talked about trying to make is an adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a version of Slaughterhouse-Five, a possible third Hellboy film, a new Frankenstein movie, and his take on H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness. It remains to be seen which way he’ll go now that he’s leaving New Zealand.