Mexico's del Toro to direct "The Hobbit"

Thu Apr 24, 2008 9:30pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was named on Thursday to direct two movies based on the J.R.R. Tolkien book "The Hobbit" to build on the blockbuster success of "The Lord of the Rings" series.

Plans to make a two-part precursor to "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, based on Tolkien's three-volume follow-up to his "Hobbit" story, were announced in December after settlement of a bitter legal dispute cleared the way for the project.

Del Toro, whose credits include "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Blade II," will move to New Zealand for the next four years to work on both "Hobbit" films with executive producer Peter Jackson, who directed all three "The Lord of the Rings" movies, according to New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.

The studios have said that filming will begin in 2009, with tentative release dates set of 2010 for the first film and 2011 for the sequel.

The plans call for del Toro to work back-to-back on "The Hobbit" and its sequel, which will deal with the 60-year period between that story and "The Fellowship of the Ring," the first of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the studios said.

"The Hobbit," which Tolkien wrote for his children and first published in 1937, is set in a fictional land called Middle-earth, inhabited by elves, dwarves, wizards and a diminutive race known as Hobbits, including the central character Bilbo Baggins.

Tolkien went on to write "The Lord of the Rings" 17 years later.

The three films based on those volumes grossed roughly $3 billion combined at box offices worldwide. The last installment in 2003, "The Return of the King," won 11 Oscars, including awards for best picture and best director for Jackson.   Continued...

<p>Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro is interviewed at the 79th Academy Awards Foreign Language Film Award reception at the Samuel Goldwyn theater in Beverly Hills, California, February 23, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>