Guillermo del Toro has officially pulled out of directing The Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit, after a protracted development that has lasted nigh on two years. In a statement released to Onering.net, he spewed the following:
"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, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. 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 wish the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director."
For his part, Peter Jackson said: "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. Guillermo’s strong vision is engrained into the scripts and designs of these two films, which are extremely fortunate to be blessed with his creative DNA”.
Del Toro was seen by many as the perfect replacement for Jackson, but with rights issues with New Line and MGM creatively sidelined the project, and it will be years before we see a finished version in cinemas. Attention will now turn to del Toro's replacement, with Spiderman and Evil Dead helmer Sam Raimi seen as a frontrunner, and Jackson himself still a distinct possibility.