Given the delays in getting producer Peter Jackson’s planned two film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit into active production, it almost comes as no surprise that director Guillermo Del Toro has announced that he is leaving the project.
Del Toro announced his departure late yesterday on a post at Tolkien/Lord Of The Rings fansite The One Ring -
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 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.
The continuing delay in getting The Hobbit up and running has been distributor MGM’s ongoing financial problems. Currently the studio is looking for a buyer. MGM’s current financial limbo has also been sited as the reason for production of the upcoming James Bond film was placed on hiatus last month.
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… 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.
Guillermo has always struck me as one of those directors who aren’t happy unless they are actually in production on a project. He constantly has several potential projects in development, so he’ll always have something ready to go in front of the cameras. The last film he completed was Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which came out in the summer of 2008 but was filmed in late 2007. Although del Toro has been working on The Hobbit most of the time since then, he has several other projects on the backburner. Having already delayed them once before so he could do The Hobbit films, I can see where he would be loath to delay them any further.
But Guillermo isn’t hoping on a plane out of just yet. As Jackson states-
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.
So the question remains, who will ultimately slide back into the director’s chair? Sam Raimi lobbied hard for the position when it was first open and although he is developing a movie based on the online game World Of Warcraft, he has no firm commitment as to what his next project will be. He could still be a good fit for The Hobbit. The necessity of moving to New Zealand for possibly up to three years to oversee the films may cause family man Raimi to hesitate. But that may be any potential director’s biggest hesitation. We’ll see how things shake out over the coming weeks and months.