Dave Gee: Entertainment Now: Jackson finds new Director for The Hobbit
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Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has been confirmed as the Director for the forthcoming movie adaptations of 'The Hobbit'.

Two Hobbit films will be shot back-to-back in New Zealand (aka "Middle Earth" ;-), based on J.R.R. Tolkein's classic novel. The project is the long-awaited prequel-followup to the Lord of the Rings legacy.

Guillermo del Toro (Pans Labyrinth, Hellboy) has been in talks for many months with major studios MGM and New Line over the project, and will emigrate to New Zealand for four years to direct 'The Hobbit' and its sequel.

Tolkein's three-volume book The Lord of the Rings was brought to the big screen by New Zealand director Peter Jackson in three films, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003).

Jackson felt he was too busy with other projects to again sit in the Director's chair, but will still be Executive Producer of the films. He'll also work on the scripts for the new movies with del Toro, along with his longtime collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.

Jackson's creative teams at Weta Workshop (including and Wingnut Films (who worked on the original trilogy) will again work their magic on the two prequel movies.

Also hoping to return from Jackson's hit trilogy are Ian McKellen (Gandalf in Lord of the Rings) and Andy Serkis (Gollum). New Line and MGM will co-finance the films (estimated at costing up to US$150 million each), with shooting due to begin sometime next year, for likely release in 2011 and 2012.

'The Hobbit' and its as-yet-unnamed sequel cover the 60-year period before the Lord of the Rings trilogy. J.R.R. Tolkein's book was first published in 1937, introducing characters like Bilbo Baggins (and his family), the wizard Gandalf, and the land of Middle Earth.