'The Hobbit' is a go with Peter Jackson

Jackson_lIt’s back to Middle Earth for Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and the boys from New Line. Finally, the years of disputes have ended, and the partners (including co-producer and co-distributor MGM) are gearing up for two new Hobbit movies. EW investigated, talking to the parties behind the negotiations to uncover how everything got resolved, and to get an idea of what viewers can expect of these adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original literary masterpiece. Here’s the lowdown:

Jackson and his life/creative partner Walsh have always envisioned the big-screen adaptation of The Hobbit as two movies. The first would deal with the 80-year old novel. The second, imagined entirely by Jackson and Walsh, would link the conclusion of The Hobbit to the start of the first Lord of the Rings book, The Fellowship of the Ring. New Line and Jackson will develop the properties over the next year with hopes of entering into pre-production by 2009 for a 2010 and 2011 release. No writers, including Jackson, Walsh, and their longtime partner Philippa Boyens, have been commissioned. (None can be, because of the strike.)

New Line has already decided that both films will be produced at the same time, in similar fashion to how the LOTR trilogy was put together, and no budgets have been assigned the films yet. According to New Line’s co-chair Robert Shaye, “You can’t budget an idea.”

While MGM and New Line want to keep Jackson’s involvement in the film as broad as possible, hinting that he may take up both writing and directing responsibilities, Jackson’s manager Ken Kamins told Hollywood Insider that Jackson won’t be directing the films. “Peter won’t be directing because he felt the fans have waited long enough for The Hobbit. It will take the better part of every day of the next four
years to write, direct and produce two Hobbit films. Given his current obligations to both The Lovely Bones and Tintin, waiting for Peter, Fran, and Phillippa to write, direct and produce The Hobbit would
require the fans wait even longer.”

Directors Sam Raimi (Spider-Man), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), and Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) are still the names that come up as alternate possiblities, but no official creative decision has been made.

“There is obviously a small but significant number of directors who could handle two films of this magnitude, but we have no commitment to anybody,” Shaye said. “Now that Peter is an integral part of the decision-making process, we all have to see eye-to-eye on any candidate we try to enlist.”

Those creative pow-wows are set to begin in early 2008 when New Line plans to sit down with Jackson to hash out critical details. (Jackson will be filming The Lovely Bones through February.)

Neither Jackson’s rep nor New Line will explain how the nasty battle between the two parties got resolved. The fight hit a low point in November 2006 when New Line actually “fired” Jackson from The Hobbit and Jackson took the battle to the LOTR fansite TheOneRing.net, where he posted, “New Line would no longer be requiring our services on The Hobbit.” New Line’s Shaye now calls it, “a misunderstanding that wound up becoming a mini-war.” The two parties began negotiating this June, but it seems MGM’s Harry Sloan served a significant role as a mediator between the two sides.

According to New Line’s co-chair Michael Lynne, “Harry served in a mediating function and at a certain sensitive moment he was very helpful.” The New Line co-chairs do attest that once Sloan got involved,
the studio was already well down the path of negotiating with Jackson. But Jackson’s rep Kamins adds, “Harry, acting in the appropriate self-interest for MGM, used the fact that he owned a piece of the rights to be helpful to both sides in this converstaion. I really credit Harry greatly.”

Shaye and company regret how acrimonious things became with Jackson. (In January, Shaye told Sci-Fi Wire website, “I don’t care about Peter Jackson anymore. He thinks we owe him something after we’ve paid him over a quarter of a billion dollars!”)

“From my side, I just regret that it happened,” said Shaye. “It was a total misunderstanding about what anybody had to gain or lose. I’m extremely glad that the bad blood was just a little infection and not
really a disabling malady.”

New Line is quick to point out that The Hobbit resolution is in no way a reaction to disappointing domestic box office numbers for their most recent release, The Golden Compass, which they had hoped would launch a new franchise. “Absolutely not,” said Lynne. “This has been in the works for a while now. Golden Compass, by the way, overseas, is performing spectacularly. Obviously, we have been disappointed with its performance here, but I think overall it will do quite well.”

Regardless of Compass‘ performance, the studio now has a new, sure-fire hit to get underway. And even though the lawsuits are settled and the fences are mended, there are still numerous hurdles between this announcement and fans sitting in the theater watching Bilbo Baggins help 13 dwarves reclaim their treasure. First, there is the nasty writer’s strike that trudges on; and second, the project’s visionary
writer/director/producer has a lot of other projects on his plate. Surely, though, this triumph deserves a little celebration. Will Jackson be planning a bender back in New Zealand?

According to Kamins, not even close. “I haven’t even talked to Peter,” he said, laughing. “He just got home from Pennsylvania, (where Lovely Bones is filming) last night.”

– Additional writing and reporting by Missy Schwartz and Vanessa Juarez

New Line has already decided that both films will be produced at the same time, in similar fashion to how the LOTR trilogy was put together, and no budgets have been assigned the films yet. According to New Line’s co-chair Robert Shaye, "You can’t budget an idea."

While MGM and New Line want to keep Jackson’s involvement in the film as broad as possible, hinting that he may take up both writing and directing responsibilities, Jackson’s manager Ken Kamins told Hollywood Insider that Jackson won’t be directing the films. "Peter won’t be directing because he felt the fans have waited long enough for The Hobbit. It will take the better part of every day of the next four
years to write, direct and produce two Hobbit films. Given his current obligations to both The Lovely Bones and Tintin, waiting for Peter, Fran, and Phillippa to write, direct and produce The Hobbit would
require the fans wait even longer."

Directors Sam Raimi (Spider-Man), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), and Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) are still the names that come up as alternate possiblities, but no official creative decision has been made.

"There is obviously a small but significant number of directors who could handle two films of this magnitude, but we have no commitment to anybody," Shaye said. "Now that Peter is an integral part of the decision-making process, we all have to see eye-to-eye on any candidate we try to enlist."

Those creative pow-wows are set to begin in early 2008 when New Line plans to sit down with Jackson to hash out critical details. (Jackson will be filming The Lovely Bones through February.)

Neither Jackson’s rep nor New Line will explain how the nasty battle between the two parties got resolved. The fight hit a low point in November 2006 when New Line actually "fired" Jackson from The Hobbit and Jackson took the battle to the LOTR fansite TheOneRing.net, where he posted, “New Line would no longer be requiring our services on The Hobbit.” New Line’s Shaye now calls it, “a misunderstanding that wound up becoming a mini-war.” The two parties began negotiating this June, but it seems MGM’s Harry Sloan served a significant role as a mediator between the two sides.

According to New Line’s co-chair Michael Lynne, "Harry served in a mediating function and at a certain sensitive moment he was very helpful." The New Line co-chairs do attest that once Sloan got involved,
the studio was already well down the path of negotiating with Jackson. But Jackson’s rep Kamins adds, "Harry, acting in the appropriate self-interest for MGM, used the fact that he owned a piece of the rights to be helpful to both sides in this converstaion. I really credit Harry greatly."

Shaye and company regret how acrimonious things became with Jackson. (In January, Shaye told Sci-Fi Wire website, "I don’t care about Peter Jackson anymore. He thinks we owe him something after we’ve paid him over a quarter of a billion dollars!")

"From my side, I just regret that it happened," said Shaye. "It was a total misunderstanding about what anybody had to gain or lose. I’m extremely glad that the bad blood was just a little infection and not
really a disabling malady."

New Line is quick to point out that The Hobbit resolution is in no way a reaction to disappointing domestic box office numbers for their most recent release, The Golden Compass, which they had hoped would launch a new franchise. "Absolutely not," said Lynne. "This has been in the works for a while now. Golden Compass, by the way, overseas, is performing spectacularly. Obviously, we have been disappointed with its performance here, but I think overall it will do quite well."

Regardless of Compass‘ performance, the studio now has a new, sure-fire hit to get underway. And even though the lawsuits are settled and the fences are mended, there are still numerous hurdles between this announcement and fans sitting in the theater watching Bilbo Baggins help 13 dwarves reclaim their treasure. First, there is the nasty writer’s strike that trudges on; and second, the project’s visionary
writer/director/producer has a lot of other projects on his plate. Surely, though, this triumph deserves a little celebration. Will Jackson be planning a bender back in New Zealand?

According to Kamins, not even close. "I haven’t even talked to Peter," he said, laughing. "He just got home from Pennsylvania, (where Lovely Bones is filming) last night."

– Additional writing and reporting by Missy Schwartz and Vanessa Juarez


Comments (138 total) Add your comment
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  • Nix

    I’m excited and scared about that “sequel”. Lots of interesting things for LOTR-heads happened, but will it translate? Aragorn’s young career as a wandering swordsman? His exploits against the Corsair pirates? (Oh, God, pirates.) Sauron reestablishing himself in Mordor? Why Bilbo adopted Frodo, and Frodo’s childhood?

  • Tal

    It should be noted that there’s a big error in this article. TheOneRing.net is NOT Jackson’s site. It is a fan site. One with which Jackson has a great deal of communication, but a fan site nonetheless.

  • Joerg Zahn

    It doesn’t bode well. First of all: Why two films? I don’t like this self-made bridge to LOTR at all. Second: Hobbit without P. Jackson’s direction is going to be bad. Lastly: All this hassle-ment before even one screen is shot. It doesn’t bode well…

  • Aaron M.

    I too am skiddish about an imagined LOTR movie made up by Jackson and Walsh. You could consider it a crime against nature in respects to JRR Tolkien. But, if its in the works, I would be most interested to see how it turns out. Personally, they should consider doing a movie based on The Silmarillion. Perhaps doing a movie surrounding the events of Morgoth, now he was one bad guy, so much more evil than Sauron. But, The Silmarillion is not really considered a true novel, more of less just a collection of works. But seeing Morgoth and his events (including Sauron as his first lieutenant) fleshed out on the big screen would be pretty cool.

  • Rachel K

    I’d be willing to wait four more years to get the exact team that worked on LoTR. Seriously, I’ll wait, so will everyone else. This new director thing makes me nervous. It’s just a bad idea.

  • Eryn

    I totally agree with Rachel K, true fans would have no problems waiting for Peter & Co. Let’s hope New Line can wait, too, for I truly believe that Peter Jackson and only Peter Jackson is capable of making “The Hobbit” as huge and epic as LotR was.
    As for the second movie: considerin that it’s PJ we’re talking about, I say why not. Give it a chance!

  • Jeter

    I have complete faith in Peter and Fran’s ability and complete devotion to the work of WETA. These guys are a SuperTeam and will accomplish nothing less than absolute magic. For anyone with doubts…just wait.

  • AprilleR

    I don’t think that there should be a second film…”The Hobbit” itself is good enough, and if there is a second movie it would distact from what Tolkien wrote….Although having a new movie come out it exciting…

  • Michael L

    In terms of the director, while I admire greatly the names that have been associated lately with the project like Del Toro, Cuaron, and Sam Raimi, Peter is the only one who could make sure the look of the film was the same as before especially in the shot selection.
    Now as for the “Sequel” to the Hobbit, there is probably few people on this earth who have a more intimate knowledge of the world that Tolkien made so long ago. Therefore I believe that if anyone could make a compelling movie with this premise then it would be Peter.
    And yes, as a true fan, I feel that waiting is the only option. We need Jackson and no one else.

  • JDKane

    It’s not requisite that Peter direct. Raimi would do just fine. The CGI technology by 2010 will be vastly superior than when LOTR-cubed was made, so the film will almost invariably have a different look and feel no matter who directs. Moreover, if the film is coming out badly, you don’t think Jackson would step in and take it over? He’s still integral to the project after all. Any competent action director can make this film and do it well. I’d love Raimi to take the film. As for the “bridge” film? It has a whiff of phantom menace about it. But, again, trust these guys.

  • Brad

    I’m really looking forward to the Hobbit movie, although I’m a little skeptical about Peter not directing. I think he has a very powerful (and accurate) vision of Middle Earth, and I’d hate to see it fall apart in someone else’s hands. But an interview I read elsewhere on this site said he wouldn’t pass the reins to someone he wasn’t completely comfortable with, so here’s hoping!! And on a completely unrelated topic– did Mr. Jackson lose a bunch of weight? He looks skinny in that picture!

  • Dan Carroll

    Where is Christopher T in all this?

  • Dan Carroll

    Where is Christopher T in all this?

  • Dan Carroll

    Where is Christopher T in all this?

  • Dan Carroll

    Where is Christopher T in all this?

Page: 1 2 3 10
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