‘Hobbit’ director bolts shire

Director Guillermo del Toro says production delays have forced him to quit the planned film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Director Guillermo del Toro says production delays have forced him to quit the planned film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

He was slated to direct a two-part prequel to New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson’s blockbuster trilogy Lord of the Rings.

Del Toro told a Lord of the Rings fan website that in light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date, he is faced with the “hardest decision” of his life.

He adds that after nearly two years of “living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures.”

Del Toro noted the film still hadn’t been given the green light by MGM, the struggling Hollywood studio.

Matt Dravitzki, a spokesman for Jackson, said del Toro would not be speaking to reporters Monday.

Last week, del Toro, who directed Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II and the two Hellboy movies, told journalists the Hobbit films, which have been plagued by delays, still hadn’t been given the go ahead.

“There cannot be any start dates until the MGM situation gets resolved,” del Toro said. “They do hold a considerable portion of the rights.”

Reports emerged late last year that MGM was teetering on bankruptcy and del Toro said those issues had caught the films in a “tangled negotiation.”

“We have designed all the creatures. We’ve designed the sets and the wardrobe. We have done animatics and planned battles sequences . . . We are very, very prepared for when it is finally triggered,” he said.

Jackson told www.TheOneRing.net: “We feel very sad to see Guillermo leave The Hobbit, but he has kept us fully in the loop and we understand how the protracted development time on these two films, due to reasons beyond anyone’s control, has compromised his commitment to other long term projects.

“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. Guillermo is one of the most remarkable creative spirits I’ve ever encountered and it has been a complete joy working with him.”