Peter Jackson to produce two Hobbit films

Tue Dec 18, 2007 3:52pm EST
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By Gina Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Director Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc said on Tuesday they have agreed to make two movies based on the book "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien, ending months of legal wrangling.

Jackson, the director of the smash hit "Lord of the Rings" movies, and producer Fran Walsh will executive produce both a "Hobbit" movie and a sequel, but no decision has been made about who will direct the films, Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, co-chairmen and co-CEOs of New Line told Reuters.

MGM Chairman Harry Sloan, who was credited by all parties for bringing about the deal, said Jackson found it "impossible" to direct the film and meet proposed release dates in 2010 and 2011 due to other projects on which he is now working.

"He can't get it scheduled and he doesn't want the fans to have to wait for the next two movies," Sloan said. He said the studios might postpone the films if Jackson changed his mind.

Jackson's representative could not be reached for comment.

Jackson, Walsh and the studios share approval "on all major creative elements" and will start considering screenwriters and directors in January, Shaye said.

The movies will be made simultaneously in New Zealand, starting in 2009. Industry experts estimated the films would each cost $150 million to $200 million to make, based in part on the $400 million cost of the first three and inflation.

The studios will likely have to negotiate more expensive deals with "Rings" cast members, such as Ian McKellen as Gandalf the wizard, if any of them return for "The Hobbit." But they could save money on special effects that were designed and built for the "Rings" films and could be reused.   Continued...

<p>Director Peter Jackson arrives at the 63rd Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 16, 2006. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>