April 20th, 2010
10:54 AM ET

Peter Jackson on 'Hobbit' progress

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Peter Jackson is nothing if not busy.

Aside from promoting "The Lovely Bones," which came out on video Tuesday, the "Lord of the Rings" director is neck-deep in several other films - Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin," for which he's a producer; "Halo," a long-gestating project he's executive-producing; and "The Hobbit," from the J.R.R. Tolkien book that set up "The Lord of the Rings."

Rumors have swirled around the latter, from its casting - will Ian McKellen return as Gandalf? who's going to play Bilbo Baggins? - to its timing (what's taking so long?). Jackson cleared up some of the mysteries in an interview with Moviefone.com.

First of all, he observed, the film has never officially been given a green light. "The studio [MGM] has never greenlit 'The Hobbit,' so therefore 'The Hobbit' has never been officially announced as a 'go' project, nor have we ever announced a date," he said. "But there's so much interest that people - newspapers and magazines, of their own account, say, ah, it's likely to film in May, it's likely to film in June, it's likely to film in September. People make this stuff up. And then if it's not filming in June, you get a story saying, ' "The Hobbit's" been delayed.' But it's never actually been announced."

The initial version of the scripts - the film will be in two parts - was just finished, he said, and he's "pretty optimistic" shooting will begin before the end of the year.

As for the actors, nothing can happen until the studio gives its go-ahead, he said.

"We've done a little bit of auditioning, but we haven't really done any meetings with actors or anything yet. We've just been totally committed to the scripts. Everything's a little bit later than what people assume it is. I think people think we've been sort of doing secret casting," he said. They'd like to use some of the actors from the "Rings" films, but won't move forward until the studio signs on. (Previously, Jackson said some of the actors would be returning.)

"The Hobbit" has been hobbled by several issues, including a 2006 dispute between Jackson's production company and New Line, the studio that bankrolled "The Lord of the Rings." The disagreement was settled in late 2007. (New Line, parent studio Warner Bros. and CNN are all part of the same company, Time Warner.) In 2008, the Tolkien estate sued New Line over alleged unpaid fees. The suit was settled last year. And MGM is currently on the selling block.

Guillermo del Toro will direct both "Hobbit" films.

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Ultramafic

    While the project has never been greenlit, the studio is still paying for all the pre-production work (including Guillermo Del Toro's time and relocation). Let's all hope that the studio heads don't decide to pull the plug rather than continue to fund an eventual no-show.

    July 28, 2010 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jay

    Groundbreaking* I mean.

    April 22, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jay

    I liked the movies better than the books. Now that I look back on the books, they were pretty torturous to read. It's literally tedious to read the part when they just leave Rivendell and end up deciding not to go through the Gap of Rohan. The movie made it fun to watch.
    And yeah, they took out Tom and the Barrow, but it really worked out for the movie. Tom would have been a huge deterrent in the plot for the movie.
    The way Sam and Frodo interacted was great. Instead of that kind of captain and lieutenant relationship, it was a whole-hearted relationship and the emotions were palpable in the performance. The movies really were round breaking, and it brought Middle Earth to life as 'I' saw it. And, by the way, the chase with Arwen and Frodo was better than just having Frodo on the horse. It's kind of stupid, in the book, who Frodo is stabbed and he is practically 'OK'. It really set the scene for a glorious chase, and I think Arwen was a great add in from the appendices. She definitely beats the other elf dude that came in to 'save' Frodo and the gang.

    April 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. LC

    Jackson hasn't been connected to "Halo" for ages, close to two years I bet. Ever hear of "District 9" with the ex-director of Halo? Try Google.

    April 22, 2010 at 3:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jen A.

    Glad she is gone...I guess she'll now have to figure out how to get her kids to earn her next paycheck. Sad how they've become props in her life.

    April 21, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. Sheldon

    You naysayers are ridiculous, stating that a change in 1% of the script invalidates the other 99%, which is a million times better than any other producer/director would have/could have managed.

    The scope and scale of their production along with their attention to detail, characters and the spirit of the books is beyond reproach in my opinion. I shudder to think how bad it could have been with a hack instead of Jackson.

    April 20, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mike

    I will be very happy if Peter Jackson keeps "The Hobbit" in line with the style of lord of the rings. I am a little uneasy about Guillermo del Toro co producing this movie – I hope it wont turn into a creepfest the way Pans Labyrinth was, or it will tear LOTR and The Hobbit miles apart in terms of style and feel. Do it right Peter!!

    April 20, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. steve

    I for one am just glad to have the trilogy. I have read all the stories since the 70's, and to finally see everything that Tolkein painted in my mind for all those years was exciting. Especially, Hobbiton with Frodo and Gandalf in the cart to kick off the first movie.
    I would also like to see the Hobbit movie, but embed the hobbit book with some earlier related stories. Maybe start with Gandalf, when he was still in the West with why he and the others came to middle earth. the dark side would be whatever Sauron's name was in the west as a maiar, and his trail to evil, contrasting that with Gandalf and the almost saruman......

    April 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. guest

    The Scouring Of The Shire and Bombadil were greatly missed. Having the elves show up at Helms Deep was totally from left field.

    Having said that, the movies came far, far closer to anything I had ever hoped to see as far as live action LOTR movies. Pretty much everything matched up with what my "minds eye" had been seeing for all these years. Kudos to PJ for what he achieved with such a vast and detailed story to work with.

    April 20, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Craig in TX

    Andy I think you are right, they offered the dog face thing $200 and an extra large KONG chew toy – he accepted. They are now negotiating with Rahm Emanuel to play Gollum, oh boy my fingers are crossed.

    April 20, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Andy

    Agreed GS. No one cared that Star Wars was 6 movies, even though much of it was painful to watch (namely Episode 1 and 2).

    April 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. GS

    The Hobbit could well be a musical. (Re)Read the book, there was a LOT of singing throughout the beginning of the story.

    One thing PJ should have done is a 6 movies (maybe 5). Tom Bombadil, the real story of the Ents and the Ent Moot plus the whole story of Saruman in the Sire was really missed.

    Though it is known as "The Trilogy" each book is broken up into two parts. 6 movies could have told the story more exactly, but how many people would have cried that it took too long to come out?

    April 20, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Celoril

    There was so much that could have been added to the film to make it SOO much more, trouble is they would have had to make it into a 6 or 7 part movie, that's a lot of work.. Some things in the movies were brutal compared to the book, such as the abandonment of the scouring of the shire, tom bombadil and the adventure with the barrow wights that go along with him, but on the other hand the battle for helms deep (while not true to what the book had happne) i found much much more exciting in the film than in the book.

    April 20, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Gregg

    The article is incorrect.

    The Halo movie was scrapped about 3 years ago, which is what Section 9 replaced on his schedule.

    April 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Guest

    Ignore him Andy, He's probably still giving his co-workers wedgies.

    April 20, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Andy

    Christopher, you must be a sad little man. I assume you have no interests in life. You must just wake up, go to a joyless job, then come home and sit in the dark until you fall asleep.

    April 20, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Guest

    I would have liked to see The Scouring of the Shire, though.

    April 20, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Craig

    Hey Gary O., Did you actually READ the books? He screwed them all up. I had to make peace with it, but every time one of those movies came out and I saw the changes he made (many that made NO sense whatsoever) I was furious because I was a huge fan of the books. Not sure why you call yourself a "purist".

    April 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Six

    Peter Jacksons LOTR trilogy is the most spectacular movie(s) ever made, and Tolkiens LOTR trilogy is the most spectacular book(s) ever written. To claim that one in any way taints the other is purist snobbery to max.

    I await the Hobbit with baited breath and worn tome in hand.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Christopher

    "..and Farquar the Green NEVER met the Dancing Snargles!! Peter Jackson is a BUTCHER!!!". How are things down in Mom's basement anyway? Still working at the video store? Got enough Funions and Mountain Dew? Still bidding on that Ebay auction for the original set of D&D books in Mint condition signed by Gary Gygax? Ever seen a naked woman that wasn't on TV, your PC, or was wearing clear heels and spray tan? Do you buy hand lotion and Kleenex by the gross?

    April 20, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  21. mikeypit

    It was not Elrond that added the horse shapes to the flooding river waters, it was Gandalf. Go back and check; he takes credit while talking to Frodo after he wakes up in Rivendell.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Andy

    All I'm saying is in the Hobbit, Jackson will cast Shaq as Bilbo and the dragon will be played by the flying dog thing from "The never ending story"... oh and it may be a musical... but maybe that is going too far...

    April 20, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  23. kabelme

    what ever happened to Tom Bombadil? He has been there since man came to earth. Perhaps they can develop some of the history and plots which are alluded to in LOTR.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Guest

    And the purist debate continues.... Let's face it. It would have taken 40 hours of film to tell that story accurately enough for those people who have taken the time to read the trilogy multiple times, and delved into Silmarillion and other Middle Earth lore created by Tolkein. Yes, there were inaccuracies, and shortcuts were taken, and dialog was changed or modernized, but the film was not just made for Tolkein fans, was it? There is probably a staggering majority that never read the books, and never will. So there has to be a stronger female presence to attract the female audience, and some scenes are shortened or omitted (Bombadil) because they divert from the main storyline. Give the guy a break – he did a pretty good job bringing this thing to life, especially after all we had was that horrible animated version.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Jim

    Yes but what about the Children of Hurin? Will we see a movie based on the new book. Yes it takes place in middle earth and talks about the first and second age. I think it would also be interesting since it involves the very first evil of middle earth: Morgoth. Perhaps it would even talk about the Elven exodus discussed in the Simurillian. Ah the things that they could do with it. Although I don't recall what place on the middle earth timeline it is in terms of Luthien and Bennin but it might be close enough to serve as a romatic story thread....

    April 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Turin Rob

    Gary O your info is WAY off.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Andy

    The king of the ring wraithes destroying Gandalf's staff is blasphemous. Jackson took WAY to much artistic license with the making of LOTR. Completely changed much of the underlying character dynamics and motivations (i.e. Frodo and Sam, Farimire (sp?), etc.)

    April 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Arthur

    Certainly del Toro can't do any worse than the animated version–with Pat Boone, if I recall. Anyone who watches that should be able to sue for damages and collect to pay for the ongoing therapy.

    I don't agree with the statement that he mutilated the work, but he did it some real damage with elevating the role of Arwen, as he did and rewriting so many things there. I was especially saddened that he left out Tom Bombadil and the events at the Barrow Downs. I thought he could have done quite a bit with Bombadil, without adding any dialogue, just on appearance, cadence, accent, gestures and the like, and how his own house was furnished.

    Was he some preternatural remnant of the Edain? Was he Tolkien's Melchizedek? Oh well...hopefully he'll let Beorn tell his own story.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  29. johann1965

    I wouldn't go quite as far as Andy, but I've also read the LOTR thought Jackson did some things very right, other things very wrong. (the whole arwen thing was ridiculus...Elrond raised the river and Gandalf put "white horse" in the white caps. Anyway, such things happen in film adaptations.

    I think IF they split the Hobbit into two movies, it's a good start.

    April 20, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Erik3490859

    Jackson did a wonderful job with LOTR, far better than most of us could have hoped or expected. But the weakest parts of those films were the additional dialogue–it was often obvious which lines were from Tolkien, and which had been added, and especially which lines had been ad-libbed on the set (especially Gimli's–that actor got way too much freedom to make up his own, anachronistic dialogue). I hope Jackson will trust the source material when he films The Hobbit, and not try to add "modern" dialogue more than absolutely necessary...

    April 20, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Shelly

    Not to be picky, Gary O., but it wasn't Arwen at the River Bruinen. It was Glorfindel who saved Frodo ... well, more of Glorfindel's horse. And, it wasn't Arwen who called the horses. The power was Elrond's.

    April 20, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Andy

    Jackson MUTILATED Lord of the Rings. Gary O, the ring wrathes didn't ever chase Arwen. Jackson unecessarily changed so much of the plot and characters its sickening. I'm not sure if I want to admit it, but I have read the trilogy over 10 times, so I know what Im talking about when I say Jackson watered down and killed LOTR.

    April 20, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Jan

    Guillermo Del Torro is awesome! Pan's Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies of all time.

    April 20, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Blaine

    They just indefinitely delayed the new Bond movie because of the MGM debacle. If they completely stopped a movie which is mostly finished, that does not bode well for The Hobbit.

    April 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Gary O.

    I'm sure that The Hobbit will be a wonderful film (or films, if done as a 2-parter, as the article says).
    I'm a bit of a purist and was very happy when I saw that The Lord of the Rings trilogy stayed very true to the books. He made many of the elements of the book come to life, very much as my imagination had done as I had read the books. (such as when Arwen had the ringwraiths chasing her and Frodo on horseback, after he was stabbed by the ringwrath's sword and she made the river rise to wash the ringwraiths away, with the white churning rushing water taking on the form of galloping horses). What concerns me is wondering how he will turn The Hobbit into a 2-part film without having to add plot lines that didn't exist in the book that will detract from the story. I'm hoping that Peter holds as faithful to the book as he did in the LOTR. Hopefully, he will realize that the way he brought those books to life was one of the main reasons for it's unparallelled success and that tampering with Tolkien's wonderful storytelling will only detract from both what the audience expects, as well as the amount of money he will ultimatley make on the film. Lets hope he makes the right decisions on this one, as his version of this film will likely be the only high budget attempt at recreating this book for a long time to come. Perhaps he should keep this in mind when he's considering whether there is enough material for two separate movies or only one excellent movie that holds faithfully to the book and his audience.

    April 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Eve Lynne

    I think he will do this just fine. I loved the Lord Of The Rings and I wasn't even a fan of the book. I am looking forward to this.

    April 20, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |

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