Frustrated by “ongoing delays,” director Guillermo del Toro has stepped down as helmer of the two parts of the upcoming adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, intended as prequels to Sir Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
Sir Peter and co-producer Frances Walsh, Lady Jackson, were informed by del Toro this past Saturday. Del Toro will continue to contribute to The Hobbit as a screenwriter. According to New Zealand’s The Dominion Post, Sir Peter has begun the search for a new director, but may choose to direct the films himself.
Del Toro, the Mexican auteur best known in the United States for horror/fantasy films such as Mimic, Blade II, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, made a statement to LOTR fan blog TheOneRing.net, which reads in part:
“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 Tolkien’s Middle Earth [sic], I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. … 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 wlsh the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product…..”
Sir Peter told TORn, “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.” Del Toro had relocated his wife and children to isolated Oceanian archipelago, where The Lord of the Rings was filmed.
The production has been delayed a number of times, due to issues with script approval, and complications involving the status of studio MGM, which owns part of the production. When they first announced the prequel project, production companies Wingnut Films and New Line Cinema predicted release dates for 2010 and 2011; those dates have been pushed back to Christmas 2012 and 2013.
Del Toro is currently producer of the science-fiction horror film Splice, opening June 4th; his upcoming projects include remakes of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five; and a film adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness.