This weekend, Guillermo del Toro announced on the J.R.R. Tolkien fansite TheOneRing.net, that he would be stepping down as director of the two Hobbit movies that serve as a prequel to the Lord of the Rings. He will remain on to help producer Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh finish the scripts.
Del Toro has spent the last two years in New Zealand working with Jackson’s company to prepare for the movies, but despite a scheduled December start to production, the movie has not yet officially been greenlit thanks to the financial mire at MGM that has already killed the most recent James Bond movie. The pair of Hobbit movies are tentatively scheduled for a 2012 and 2013 release.
In a news conference last week while promoting the movie Splice, del Toro admitted that the delays to filming were due to MGM’s situation.
“There cannot be any start date until the MGM situation gets resolved because they hold considerable portion of the rights,” del Toro told reporters. “It’s impossible to take a unilateral decision to give the greenlight to proceed. We really believe that the date will be known after they fact of MGM’s fate. Whether they stay or get supported or get some of the rights.”
MGM is currently up for sale, but it goes on the block with $3.7 billion in debt. The sale has been dragging on, with no clear buyer or end in sight. The problems have frozen production on several films, including the third Daniel Craig James Bond that had Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) attached to direct. Filming was supposed to begin this summer for a 2011 release. MGM co-owns the rights to The Hobbit, which further complicate the situation.
Del Toro had been expecting a long production with years dedicated to the project, but continuing delays have pushed his timetable back so far that it threatens other potential long-term projects, including possible remakes of Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
“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”, del Toro said on the Tolkien fansite. “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 wish 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”.
Jackson will begin the search for a new director next week, despite the project’s uncertain future. No frontrunners have been mentioned. So who do you think can replace del Toro? Sound off below!