MGM CEO Harry Sloan talks 'Hobbit'

This morning, New Line and MGM announced that the Hobbit debacle was over and the first of two planned pics would finally be going into pre-production with Peter Jackson as executive producer. The Hobbit is scheduled for a 2010 release, and the sequel is expected the following year — the latter having the better chance of being directed by the Lord of the Rings mastermind himself. Shortly after the announcement, Hollywood Insider spoke with MGM CEO Harry Sloan about the details.

EW: You must be delighted that this project is finally moving forward.
HARRY SLOAN: Ecstatic. It’s a great day for MGM and New Line, and to have two Hobbit movies with Peter Jackson, really, I couldn’t imagine anything better happening around Christmastime this year.

Can you talk about how this came together? Did this just happen overnight or the last few days?
Well, you know, nothing happens overnight. MGM has always said, and taken a firm position, that we want Peter to be involved, and we have to compliment and be very gratified that [New Line’s Bob Shaye and Michael Lyne] and Peter were able to put their differences aside for the good of these movies. We saw that take place over the last six months. I wouldn’t say it was instant by any means.

It’s seems that for the last year or so MGM has tried to stay out of the fray because this was a disagreement between New Line and Peter Jackson over the lawsuit. So when did you come into the picture, and how persuasive did you have to be?
It was very much in MGM’s interest that we get this property up and running. When I took over the studio, one of our first goals was to develop franchises, and this is the first one we have under the new management, and I also think between The Hobbits and James Bond, we now have two of the best-known franchises in the world, so it’s a really great day for MGM.

Have Peter Jackson and New Line resolved the lawsuit?
Yes, they have. That was part of it, because it wouldn’t have been a good atmosphere.

Peter Jackson did say all along that he didn’t want to go into a new deal without having settled the lawsuit.
And, of course, it added a level of complexity to putting the whole deal together. But I think the most important thing was for the participants, for Peter and Bob and Michael, to first get talking and start focusing on what great work they had accomplished together. That began to build a bridge toward cooperation on resolving the lawsuit and, of course, making a deal for Peter to oversee these two movies out of the Hobbit property.

Can you tease us with who might be in line to direct? Guillermo Del Toro, Sam Raimi…
Well, those are the names that have been mentioned and they’re both top directors, excellent directors. It’s Peter’s project. Peter and Bob Shaye are going to oversee it creatively but in the end … our choice had always been Peter. But if after he and Fran [Walsh, Jackson’s wife] and whoever they work with develop the script, if Peter feels comfortable and Bob feels comfortable with another director, then there will be another director.

Is there any chance that Peter could direct the Hobbit sequel?
Well, he could direct either of them.

He’s been busy with The Lovely Bones, so has it been a scheduling thing?
Well, he’s got Lovely Bones, he’s got Tin Tin, he’s got two or three projects, but it is the right time for him to devote his intentions to developing the property and the script with himself and Fran and maybe other writers as well. And once the property is developed and there’s a picture that’s ready to go, he may consider directing it — although the second film might be more likely due to scheduling.

Does Peter have the right to refuse a director for this one, or script approval?
Neither us nor New Line would want to hire a director that Peter was not completely comfortable with. Remember it’s Peter’s project, he’s overseeing it. So I don’t want to tell you what’s legally in the contract…. But we wouldn’t do that.

This must be a good time for New Line to land this project, given that Golden Compass hasn’t done well. Did that play any sort of a role in getting this to come through at this point in time?
They can speak for themselves. But from my point of view, I’d say no because I think we were well on our way to having The Hobbit set to be developed and go into production long before Golden Compass opened.

Well, I’m sure they’re happy now. It’s good timing.
Look, any time perhaps the world’s greatest franchise has the opportunity to live on is good timing. That’s how we feel. We’re blessed every time we get another James Bond movie up and running.
 
With those two franchises, how challenging is it going to be with the writers’ strike, if it continues to go on into the New Year, and there’s also the SAG negotiations next year.
We start shooting the new James Bond movie Jan. 7, and we’ll be done before [a potential] actors’ strike, so it won’t affect James Bond. As far as The Hobbit, yes, it’s going to have an affect because we need the strike to get settled. We’ve got Peter Jackson, which is the biggest point here, but now Peter and the other writers who will be involved can’t write. So we’ve got to get this strike settled.

Any word on who would star in The Hobbit, or any expectations? I know a lot of the previous LOTR actors who would be able to have a role in The Hobbit have said that they would only be on board if Peter Jackson was.
Yeah, I think Peter stayed in touch. I think Peter’s been in touch over time with the other actors and is close with them and they’re close with him, so I think we’d be hopeful that some would reappear.

Have Peter Jackson and New Line resolved the lawsuit?
Yes, they have. That was part of it, because it wouldn’t have been a good atmosphere.

Peter Jackson did say all along that he didn’t want to go into a new deal without having settled the lawsuit.
And, of course, it added a level of complexity to putting the whole deal together. But I think the most important thing was for the participants, for Peter and Bob and Michael, to first get talking and start focusing on what great work they had accomplished together. That began to build a bridge toward cooperation on resolving the lawsuit and, of course, making a deal for Peter to oversee these two movies out of the Hobbit property.

Can you tease us with who might be in line to direct? Guillermo Del Toro, Sam Raimi…
Well, those are the names that have been mentioned and they’re both top directors, excellent directors. It’s Peter’s project. Peter and Bob Shaye are going to oversee it creatively but in the end … our choice had always been Peter. But if after he and Fran [Walsh, Jackson’s wife] and whoever they work with develop the script, if Peter feels comfortable and Bob feels comfortable with another director, then there will be another director.

Is there any chance that Peter could direct the Hobbit sequel?
Well, he could direct either of them.

He’s been busy with The Lovely Bones, so has it been a scheduling thing?
Well, he’s got Lovely Bones, he’s got Tin Tin, he’s got two or three projects, but it is the right time for him to devote his intentions to developing the property and the script with himself and Fran and maybe other writers as well. And once the property is developed and there’s a picture that’s ready to go, he may consider directing it — although the second film might be more likely due to scheduling.

Does Peter have the right to refuse a director for this one, or script approval?
Neither us nor New Line would want to hire a director that Peter was not completely comfortable with. Remember it’s Peter’s project, he’s overseeing it. So I don’t want to tell you what’s legally in the contract…. But we wouldn’t do that.

This must be a good time for New Line to land this project, given that Golden Compass hasn’t done well. Did that play any sort of a role in getting this to come through at this point in time?
They can speak for themselves. But from my point of view, I’d say no because I think we were well on our way to having The Hobbit set to be developed and go into production long before Golden Compass opened.

Well, I’m sure they’re happy now. It’s good timing.
Look, any time perhaps the world’s greatest franchise has the opportunity to live on is good timing. That’s how we feel. We’re blessed every time we get another James Bond movie up and running.
 
With those two franchises, how challenging is it going to be with the writers’ strike, if it continues to go on into the New Year, and there’s also the SAG negotiations next year.
We start shooting the new James Bond movie Jan. 7, and we’ll be done before [a potential] actors’ strike, so it won’t affect James Bond. As far as The Hobbit, yes, it’s going to have an affect because we need the strike to get settled. We’ve got Peter Jackson, which is the biggest point here, but now Peter and the other writers who will be involved can’t write. So we’ve got to get this strike settled.

Any word on who would star in The Hobbit, or any expectations? I know a lot of the previous LOTR actors who would be able to have a role in The Hobbit have said that they would only be on board if Peter Jackson was.
Yeah, I think Peter stayed in touch. I think Peter’s been in touch over time with the other actors and is close with them and they’re close with him, so I think we’d be hopeful that some would reappear.

Comments (11 total) Add your comment
  • Diezmann

    This is great news. There is still hope for PJ as theHobbit director. Thank you, Mr. Sloan!

  • James Rendle

    Now, lets get Ian McKellen back as Gandalf!

  • jim

    It’s a “property,” it’s a “franchise.” Not much about making it a good movie. Studio heads really are just Wall Streeters looking for glamour, aren’t they.

  • Travis

    Of course Hollywood types are all looking at the money. That’s what they do: it’s their job. But I believe you can still get excellent movies out of money-grubbers.

  • Nathan Blevins

    Um, the man who botched the Rings books beyond bloody compare is back to produce the last pure work of Tolkien’s that hasn’t been turned in a mindless, pile of steaming crapp for the masses?
    *sigh* Heavenly hosts…God have mercy on Peter Jackson, cuz only a loving God could.

  • t.j.

    i love the movies. if u made another of course i would see it

  • James G McDonald

    Good news. The Hobbit is to be made as a film. I hope that the makers will be able to capture the wonder tha I felt when I first read the book. I read LOTR first. The Hobbit had much more the feel of a childrens book to it. Good luck!

  • Stuart

    Even though it’s great news that the Hobbit is becoming a live-action film (the earlier comment that it hadn’t been made into film before is incorrect, in fact the cartoon version of the Hobbit WAS a steaming pile of crap), i can’t help but feel slightly disappointed that the film isn’t being made for the right reasons. What made Lord of the Rings films so good was because the motive behind them was to “make a good tribute to the book”. Peter rejected offers from studios because of his passion to see LOTR made decently.
    I feel that with all this attitude and bitterness, how can the film version of Hobbit live up to our expectations as laid down by professor Tolkein all those years ago in his fabulous book.
    Perhaps it wouldnt be an entirely bad thing to see a fresh face direct with his/her own passion and vision, or an entirely different production team. It would give a chance for the Hobbit film to stand on its own without the expectations, stigma and perhaps “franchise” as LOTR.

  • Hobbit Fan

    This movie will be a great event for all Tolkien’s fans. We just need to be patient to wait.

    http://www.lord-of-the-rings.org

  • Gavin Walker

    Don’t believe in a director who hasn’t read Lord of the Rings – especially not for the second movie.
    Also, suggestion: John Rys Davies for Beorn?

  • zoeq kljfxg

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