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New Line Chief Says Jackson Won't Direct "The Hobbit" While He's Working There

Posted on Friday, January 12th, 2007 9:46 AM

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Back in November, I mentioned that Peter Jackson and New Line Studios were having a bit of a war of words over whether he might be directing "The Hobbit" as a followup to his very successful turn at the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

That little war of words has gotten personal, with the Sci Fi Channel's news service Sci Fi Wire saying that New Line co-chairman Bob Shaye, in an interview with the service, has written off Peter Jackson from ever working with the studio as long as he's working there:

Shaye, who was also an executive producer on the Rings films, added: "He got a quarter of a billion dollars paid to him so far, justifiably, according to contract, completely right, and this guy, who already has received a quarter of a billion dollars, turns around without wanting to have a discussion with us and sues us and refuses to discuss it unless we just give in to his plan. I don't want to work with that guy anymore. Why would I? So the answer is he will never make any movie with New Line Cinema again while I'm still working for the company."

Shaye said that many of the Rings trilogy actors "suddenly, because, I'm guessing, of Peter's complaint," have declined to participate in celebrating New Line's 40th anniversary. "I'm incredibly offended," he said. "I don't care about Peter Jackson anymore. He wants to have another $100 million or $50 million, whatever he's suing us for. He doesn't want to sit down and talk about it. He thinks that we owe him something after we've paid him over a quarter of a billion dollars. ... Cheers, Peter."

Rather than join Shaye in the high school cattiness, Jackson responded by saying that his issue is with an audit that was done on "The Fellowship of the Ring" and his request to audit "The Two Towers" and "Return of the King" as well. Since Jackson's compensation was tied to profits, it sounds like he's got a case, and New Line might be hiding something.

Shaye's comments could come back to bite him, as well. MGM owns the distribution rights to "The Hobbit" and on November 20th, MGM told Variety that the matter with Jackson directing the movie was "far from closed."

The studio can't afford to give a big budget to an unproven director, Jackson knows the story and the actors inside and out, he has the devotion of lots of fans, and if New Line screwed up "The Hobbit" it would taint all three previous movies in the eyes of fans and the value of future home video releases and marketing tie-ins would be blunted severely.

It may come down to a showdown between a director whose three movies made $2.91 billion with a $281 million budget (not counting what had to be huge revenues from multiple DVD releases) and the co-chairman of a studio whose last big hit was "Wedding Crashers" in the summer of 2005, and the only film to break $40 million last year was "Final Destination 3."

I know where I would place my bets!

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