Fans of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth will be breathing a sigh of relief this weekend with the news that the financially beleaguered MGM have finally reached a deal with New Line and Warner Bros. to cover the estimated $500m needed to bring The Hobbit to the big-screen, as reported by TheWrap last night. The two-part prequel to the hugely successful Lord of the Rings trilogy will see Peter Jackson take over directing duties vacated by Pan’s Labyrinth helmer Guillermo del Toro, who remains credited as co-writer alongside Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.
“It’s an all-immersive journey into a very special place of imagination, beauty and drama,” said the New Zealand filmmaker in a statement released on Friday. “We’re looking forward to re-entering this wondrous world with Gandalf and Bilbo — and our friends at New Line Cinema, Warner Brothers and MGM.”
The announcement hopefully brings to an end question marks over the status of the The Hobbit, which was first revealed back in December 2007 and has seen over $30m already spent on pre-production work, although the Screen Actors Guild could yet put a spanner in the works with their claims that the movie is a “non-union production”. Nevertheless for the moment the plan is to start shooting in February 2011 with Ian McKellen reprising his role as Gandalf and The Office star Martin Freeman hotly tipped to secure the lead role of Bilbo Baggins.