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"The Hobbit" May Be Made Without Peter Jackson

Posted on Tuesday, November 21st, 2006 11:33 AM

It looks like New Line Cinema may be forging ahead with the production of "The Hobbit" without Peter Jackson at the helm.

In a letter that Jackson and his producing partner Fran Walsh sent to fan-site TheOneRing.net on Sunday, New Line is looking to pull the trigger on the movie, but Jackson's lawsuit with them over revenues from "The Fellowship of the Ring" has soured the relationship to the point where Jackson won't do the movie without the earlier matter being settled (understandable, since the sum in question is in the many millions of dollars) and New Line needs to get going as their production rights have a time limit.

This news has rankled fans of the "Lord of the Rings" series, to say the least. Since "The Return of the King" was finished, everyone has pretty much assumed that once Jackson finished his pet project ("King Kong"), he'd be working on "The Hobbit" once all the details were worked out. His work on the trilogy cemented his reputation with movie fans, and doing the story that started it all would just seem like a sure-thing.

New Line has the production rights to "The Hobbit," but MGM has the distribution rights, and Variety is reporting that MGM is none too pleased to hear that Jackson won't be doing the movie.

Special effects house Weta Digital is not necessarily out of the game when it comes to doing the effects work, however. A mention on TheOneRing.net says that Weta chief Richard Taylor has said that Jackson would not bar Weta from working on the movie if he were not the director. However, it doesn't sound like they have been contacted in any concrete way about doing the movie at this point.

It will be interesting to see what happens with this. There's too much money at stake for someone to be stupid enough to let rights to "The Hobbit" lapse. New Line has to tread carefully with the project, though, as the movie's success depends almost completely upon the fervor of the fan base that made the trilogy the success that it was. Giving Jackson the cold shoulder is the first step in the wrong direction, and it's very difficult to think of another director that could bring "The Hobbit" to the big screen in a satisfactory manner.

My advice to New Line: Go to arbitration with Peter Jackson and get the lawsuit settled. Put the matter behind you and concentrate on the future. The franchise is too important to everyone involved to screw it up, and there's no compelling reason that Jackson and his team shouldn't be doing the movie.

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