Originally published on JRR Tolkien Examiner on 6/22/09.
Much of the editorial focus of JRR Tolkien Examiner will be on the upcoming, two-part film version of The Hobbit, to be released at Christmas 2011 and 2012. The Hobbit Report will bring you the latest developments as the production progresses.
This first edition of The Hobbit Report is a compilation of news on the project to-date.
A two-part film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s beloved children’s novel, The Hobbit, is slated for release in December 2011 and December 2012. The films will be directed by Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro, with The Lord of the Rings film trilogy director Peter Jackson acting as executive producer and co-writer.
Story outlines and treatments were completed in March 2009, and the screenplay is currently under development, with Lord of the Rings screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens working with Jackson and Del Toro.
The two three-hour films will recreate all the scenes of The Hobbit, plus events only alluded to in The Hobbit that impact The Lord of the Rings – particularly, the expulsion of Sauron from Mirkwood by The White Council.
Some Lord of the Rings actors are officially reprising their roles in The Hobbit; Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf; Andy Serkis as Gollum; and Hugo Weaving as Elrond Halfelven. All three characters appear in the book. It appears that Ian Holm will not reprise his role as Bilbo Baggins, the title character; he may act as narrator, with a younger actor taking over the lead role.
Del Toro also intends to cast Hellboy’s Ron Perlman and Doug Jones in as-yet unspecified roles.
Sir Christopher Lee has expressed interest in reprising the role of Saruman, who does not appear in the book, but participates in the expulsion of Sauron. For health reasons Lee cannot travel to New Zealand, where the films will be shot, as were the three Lord of the Rings films. Lee’s scenes would have to be filmed in England if he is to participate.
Jackson and others have also suggested that Viggo Mortensen will return as Aragorn. This is puzzling – if Tolkien’s original timeline is followed, then Aragorn is ten years old when the events of The Hobbit occur.
In 1995, Jackson intended to shoot The Hobbit at the same time as The Lord of the Rings; but United Artists would not release distribution rights to The Hobbit to producer New Line Cinema. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, owner of UA, is now on board with the prequel films.
Between 2005 and 2007, The Hobbit was imperiled again, when Jackson sued New Line over profits from Lord of the Rings. At one point, New Line co-founder Robert Shaye declared that Jackson would never work for the production company again. But New Line brought on Jackson as executive producer in December 2007.
Currently, representatives of the heirs of JRR Tolkien are suing New Line. The suit could impact the production and release of The Hobbit, although this has not happened to-date.
Filming will take place throughout 2010 in New Zealand, and Del Toro will renovate the original Hobbiton sets from the trilogy. In addition, Jackson has kept the Bag End sets, which he uses as a guesthouse. Jackson expects the shoot to last 370 days, with a break in the middle to edit the first film.