After months of delays that have already cost the film the benefit of Guillermo del Toro as a director, The Wrap.com is reporting that MGM and Warner Bros. have agreed to greenlight The Hobbit with Peter Jackson attached as writer, director and producer.
What originally seemed like a no-brainer to reach the screen hit a roadblock following the near total collapse of MGM under $4 billion of debt. The company went up for sale but the financial situation scared of all investors, and while the quagmire continued, things looked increasingly bleak for the studio and its properties. As the months crept on, several big name productions were forced into delays, including the next James Bond movie, a Red Dawn remake which had already completed filming, a RoboCop reboot, and a Three Stooges movie, among others.
On October 8, MGM officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which will give control of the company to its creditors, but also free several productions from the legal limbo the situation has caused.
The Hobbit, which has already spent more than $30 million in pre-production costs, is now officially set to begin filming in February — although there are still a few issues to iron out first. One hurdle will be confirming the availability of several key actors who have been on hold for months, including Sir Ian McKellan, who has remained attached to reprise his role as Gandalf. The production will also need to move quickly to find and actor to play Bilbo, although sources claim that Martin Freeman remains the top choice.
There is also a labor dispute currently underway between the Screen Actors Guild and several labor unions against Jackson and the production. If the dispute is not resolved, it could force the production to move to Europe, rather than film in New Zealand as the Lord of the Rings films did. It could also cost the production several key actors, including McKellan and Cate Blanchett, who is set to reprise her role as Galadriel. A decision on the location should be reached within the next week or two.
The Hobbit currently has a budget of nearly $400 million dollars, and will be broken into two movies. The first is now set to hit theaters on December 19, 2012, with part II debuting in December of 2013.
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