It's extraordinarily sad that we will now never get to see Guillermo Del Toro's imaginative two-film vision for The Hobbit - the director sadly resigning from the film yesterday following incessant production troubles and delays. For the past two years, I've been eagerly anticipating Del Toro's magic touch working from the already rich canvas of Tolkien's writings. I've been dreaming of what his Middle-Earth would look like, and I can't tell you how many times I've watched Pan's Labyrinth just to soak up the loving details of the worlds this guy creates. It's tragic that it's come to this, but I can't say I'm overly surprised and I guess there's a certain sense of relief among Del Toro's hardcore fans (of which I'm definitely one!) that such a rabid storyteller's prime creative years is no longer stuck in limbo because MGM (who partly own rights) can't sort their house out. It's clear that these issues weren't going to be resolved for Warner Bros/New Line to begin filming this year, and just like the anchoring of Bond 23 left 007's future in the balance, so too now is the future of Middle-Earth. And it's such a shame because this truly felt like the film's last real chance (given the aging of the original cast such as Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving etc). Del Toro's original commitment in 2008 was for three years, with The Hobbit Part I originally set for release this December. This was quickly delayed to 2011 and then 2012, and as Del Toro has a contract to make four movies at Universal before 2017, he simply had no choice but to bail. In a statement over at The One Ring, he called it the hardest decision he ever had to make in his life...
"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 Tolkiens 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. Ive 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."
Producer Peter Jackson;
"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 anyones control has compromised his commitment to other long term projects. The bottom line is that Guillermo just didnt 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 Ive ever encountered and it has been a complete joy working with him. Guillermos strong vision is engrained into the scripts and designs of these two films, which are extremely fortunate to be blessed with his creative DNA."
So where does that leave The Hobbit... Well we are told that the script Guillermo Del Toro and the original LOTR writing trio Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran WalshWILL STAY INTACT - if the film gets made. But that's the only reassurances we have right now. We still need to know whether... Warner Bros. will keep the release dates of The Hobbit Part I (Dec. 2012) and The Hobbit Part II (Dec. 2013) which now seems improbable, at best. Will Peter Jackson, who has no features on his upcoming slate and is in truth wounded commercially and creatively after The Lovely Bones, decide to stand-up to the plate and commit to direct these two films, something he has up until now always resisted? Is there anyone beyond Del Toro that Jackson would trust with this project... maybe Neil Blomkamp who he entrusted with Halo but no studio in town would, so they made District 9 together. But of course Blomkamp would need to be a huge Tolkien fan to have interest in dedicating so much of his life to a project, and he would need a love for the story for Jackson to ever consider him. Would the likes of Sam Raimi (busy with World of Warcraft) or Bill Condon (now on Twilight) who were the two runners-up in the directing race a few years ago losing out to Del Toro, quickly become interested again? Seems unlikely, given the schedule conflicts. There and Back Again to The Hobbit now seems a longer journey than ever before. Heartbreaking and tragic for sure...but for Del Toro fans... you gotta be happy he will be able to make movies again. DISCUSS: Your reactions to Guillermo Del Toro's departure from The Hobbit.