After being stuck in limbo for over a year due to MGM Studios’ financial woes and losing director Guillermo Del Toro, The Hobbit is now back on track to get the big screen treatment it deserves. The Hollywood Reporter reported on the official announcement from Warner Brothers Studios. Unsurprisingly Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, who was originally to serve only as a producer, has stepped up to the plate and commited to directing the project. The plan is still for The Hobbit to be presented as two movies.
Many had anticipated The Hobbit to have been shot by now and on it’s way to theaters by next year. And had it not been for MGM’s prolonged financial meltdown it might have been. The film has now shifted over to Warner Bros and has finally received the greenlight to go into production. For all the work that had been done on the film up to this point, including script and design work, it had never actually been greenlit. Not even when it was still at MGM. Of course given the massive success of the Lord of the Rings films it was always assumed that the project would be greenlit easily as soon as the money was in place. So while it’s never been in doubt that it would happen at some point the project is now officially moving forward.
Peter Jackson directed all three of the Lord of the Rings films, earning an Oscar for The Return of the King, and he is officially directing both films that will comprise The Hobbit. Guillermo Del Toro, director of Pan’s Labyrinth, had previously been hired to direct and had worked with Jackson and his partner Phillipa Boyens for over a year. The three worked on story and script details and Del Toro did some creature and general design work as well. When the project stalled at MGM, Del Toro made the choice to not wait indefinitely for the issues to be sorted out and moved onto other projects. He is currently gearing up his long gestating adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. This left a void for the role of director but it’s one that Jackson was quick to step in and fill. When all is said in done it may result that this shift is for the best. It’s allowed Del Toro to work on his labor of love project and put Middle Earth back in the hands of the man who knows how to put it on film better than anybody else.
The next hurdle for the project to overcome is an ongoing union labor dispute in Jackson’s native New Zealand. And issue has arrisen over the use of union actors for any proposed filming of The Hobbit. If the disagreement is not resolved quickly it may result in the film being shot elsewhere. Warner Bros is already scouting other possible shooting locations. It would truly be a shame if this were to occur, as the stunning setting of New Zealand did so much to make the world of Middle Earth seem real. Negotiations are still ongoing and with any luck a resolution will be reached.
Once that has been sorted casting will be the next issue. While nobody is officially signed it has been assumed that Ian McKellan would reprise his role as the wizard Gandalf the Grey. McKellan himself has seemed eager to get to work on the project. Another possible returning actor would be Hugo Weaving in the role of the elf Elrond. The big question has been who would play the part of Bilbo Baggins, who was portrayed by Ian Holm in the Lord of the Rings films. Holm is too old to play the part for The Hobbit and much of the rumors have swirled around Martin Freeman (best known for the UK version of The Office) to assume the part. Freeman has expressed interest but has also been quick to point out that it’s unlikely that his busy schedule will allow it. He currently co-stars in the latest TV adaptation of Sherlock Holmes in Britain, playing Dr. Watson.