Bad news for fans anticipating the upcoming Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit: director Guillermo Del Toro has quit the production and will not direct the two-part movie series.
“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,” del Toro said. “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.”
The movie has been in pre-production for two years, even though it has never been fully greenlit by its studio, MGM, which has been struggling to stay afloat. Though the first part has been unofficially slated for December 2011, no actual release date has ever been set.
Nevertheless, large parts of the film have been already been planned to detail, according to del Toro, the director behind the Oscar-nominated Pan’s Labyrinth and the two Hellboy movies: “We have designed all the creatures. We’ve designed the sets and the wardrobe. We have done animatics and planned battles sequences … We are very, very prepared for when it is finally triggered.”
Del Toro will continue to co-write the screenplays with Jackson and his wife, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens.
According to executive producer Peter Jackson, del Toro’s decision to leave was based on the ever-expanding time commitment to the movies: “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.”
This is bad news for the troubled production; del Toro was an excellent choice to replace Jackson given his ability to craft creatures and worlds that would fit in perfectly in Middle Earth. Here’s one vote for Stephen Sommers!