It looks like Warner Brothers’ LORD OF THE RINGS prequels, based on Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT as well as other Middle-Earth works, has hit a bit of a snag. Guillermo Del Toro has left the project as director, though he will remain attached as writer for a few more months before moving on. It seems scheduling conflicts and a longer-than-anticipated production commitment has forced Del Toro to bow out. However, there are reports and hints that Warner Brothers may have been at fault here, despite claims that all of this was “beyond anyone’s control.” According to Bill Hunt over at the Digital Bits:
“…Don’t kid yourself – this is Warner’s fault. Insider word is they’ve been a massive pain in the backside to work with on this project, foot-dragging, hand-wringing over the budget and demanding to see multiple script drafts before officially green-lighting the projects. What a damn shame! Warner was handed (when they absorbed New Line) what could and should have been a surefire hit, based on a property that’s a proven film success and that almost everyone loves. And they’re blowing it, big time. Warner gets an epic fail on this.”
However, both Del Toro and Peter Jackson have made official statements that appear quite warm and conciliatory. Del Toro:
“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. 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. 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. 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”.
I’m not sure how to feel about this. I’m not a huge fan of Del Toro as a director, though I do find him to be quite creative and imaginative and there are films of his I do like, though I find his fascination with violence a bit more intense than I believe his stories warrant. That said, Jackson also came out of the extremely gruesome horror world and he turned out to be the perfect director for THE LORD OF THE RINGS films. With Jackson on as producer, Del Toro might have been the perfect choice after all (well, I think we all agree that Jackson is the perfect choice, but he seems to be committed to not directing these. Shame). We’ll just have to wait and see who will take the helm now. Keep your fingers crossed it’s not Michael Bay…