I slept in this morning — as much as the children climbing all over me would allow, that is — and haven’t checked my news feeds yet, but thanks to an e-mail from my friend Bruce, I now know that, according to the Associated Press, Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have patched things up and will work together on The Hobbit after all:
Jackson, who directed the “Rings” trilogy, will serve as executive producer for “The Hobbit.” A director for the prequel films has yet to be named. . . .
Two “Hobbit” films are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, similar to how the three “Lord of the Rings” films were made. Production is set to begin in 2009 with a released planned for 2010, with the sequel scheduled for a 2011 release. . . .
And, hmmm, that last film would be arriving just in time for the 10th anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), the movie that started it all. Expect to see even more special editions on DVD, or Blu-Ray, or whatever format we’re all working with by then.
What I would like to know is where Saul Zaentz figures into all this. Zaentz got the film rights to Middle-Earth back in the 1970s, and has basically been leasing them to New Line all along. In 2006, he reportedly said that the film rights would revert to him “next year”, and thus Peter Jackson’s squabble with New Line wouldn’t matter any more. And just last week, he launched a new lawsuit against New Line over the profits from the existing trilogy. So … is Zaentz allowing these new movies to go ahead anyway? Or have the rights not reverted back to him yet, for whatever reason?
As I was finishing this post, I got another e-mail, this time from the local New Line rep. It included a link to The Hobbit: The Official Movie Blog, which so far just has a copy of the press release announcing the two movies. If I see any other interesting details in my news feeds in the next day or so, I will update this post.
UPDATE: Reuters quotes MGM chairman Harry Sloane, whose studio is co-financing the Hobbit films, to the effect that Peter Jackson is “too busy” to direct The Hobbit himself, given that he is currently directing The Lovely Bones and he is also attached to Steven Spielberg’s Tintin trilogy — but Sloane says Jackson “doesn’t want the fans to have to wait for the next two movies”.
Elsewhere, David Poland at The Hot Blog says New Line is in a rush to get these movies made because “the end of rights” comes in 2010, which is a few years later than Zaentz seemed to indicate in that interview last year.
Poland also says the deal with Jackson can’t necessarily be construed as a reaction to the box-office failure of The Golden Compass, because New Line has been trying to patch things up with Jackson since the summer. But was not The Golden Compass well into post-production by then? And did not New Line seem to be panicking when, a few months ago, they began replacing actors and cutting off the film’s ending, etc.? Would it not be reasonable to assume, then, that New Line’s side of the negotiations was motivated to some degree by their dawning awareness that The Golden Compass would be a box-office disappointment?
And for what it’s worth, the New York Times says New Line paid Jackson nearly $40 million as part of the settlement.
Incidentally, I just realized that it was exactly six years ago tomorrow that The Fellowship of the Ring came out. Coincidence?
And a part of me really likes the fact that the first Hobbit film is slated to come out when my twins will be almost 5 years old — which, hopefully, will mean that the twins will be old enough to see these films in the theatre with the wife and me.