Why Guillermo del Toro left 'The Hobbit' -- and Peter Jackson will not replace him as director

Jackson-Hobbit_320.jpg Image Credit: Barry King/FilmMagic.com; Kristian Dowling/WireImage.comOver the last four years, there has scarcely been another project in Hollywood that has been more highly anticipated — and has weathered more back-room corporate wrangling — than The Hobbit. So when filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) announced today that he was dropping out of directing the two films planned for J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary preamble to The Lord of the Rings, the news served as both a shock to fans and yet another possible casualty in the sad ongoing saga of MGM Studios.

As Del Toro (pictured, right) and The Hobbit producer Peter Jackson (pictured, left) explained to LOTR fansite TheOneRing.net, the two Hobbit films are still slated for release in Dec. 2012 and Dec. 2013. And Del Toro is still collaborating on the screenplay with Jackson and his LOTR co-screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. But why did Del Toro walk away from one of the most highly coveted director’s chairs in modern cinema? And who could possibly step in to replace him? (Read on for why it won’t be Peter Jackson.)

The answer to the first question may in part be found in the debt-soaked balance sheets at MGM, which co-owns the rights to a feature film version of The Hobbit with New Line Cinema, the studio that made the LOTR trilogy. Late last year, MGM officially went up for sale with a reported $3.7 billion in debt, a process that has dragged on for months and thrown the prospect of future projects at the venerable studio into question — including, for example, another James Bond film. Just last Friday, Del Toro told the press in a conference call promoting Splice (which he is exec producing) that the uncertainty surrounding MGM’s future means that The Hobbit has no official greenlight and cannot move forward. “We have been caught in a very tangled negotiation,” Del Toro said. “Now I have been on the project for nearly two years. We have designed all the creatures, the sets, the wardrobe, animatics and planned action sequences and we are very, very prepared for when it is finally triggered. We don’t know anything until the MGM situation is resolved.”

UPDATE: A source close to the production tells EW that MGM’s impending sale has had absolutely no impact on the status of The Hobbit, and stresses that Dec. 2010 has always been the target production start date and is not expected to change with Del Toro’s replacement. (The text of the preceding and following paragraphs have been altered to reflect this perspective.)

When Del Toro signed on to direct The Hobbit two years ago, he moved to New Zealand to work with Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens, knowing full well what signing on to direct two giant movies back-to-back would mean. “It’s about a half-a-decade of commitment,” he told EW in April 2008. “A huge endeavor.” Two years later, the production still is not underway, MGM’s financial future is in limbo, and several other of Del Toro’s commitments as a director and producer are hanging in the balance — including possible films of Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Del Toro apparently felt that the endeavor back into Middle Earth would have to proceed without him at the helm. Jackson’s manager Ken Kamins tells EW via e-mail that he approached Jackson on Saturday with his thinking and decision.

So who could take Del Toro’s place? Not Jackson. “As for Peter directing,” writes Kamins from New Zealand, “that’s not something he can consider at this time as he has other commitments to other projects. But make no mistake, Peter and Fran’s commitment to the franchise is total and will do everything necessary to protect the films and the investment made by New Line, [parent company] Warner Bros. and MGM.” (Studio reps have not responded to requests for comment.)

Kamins says execs from New Line and Warner Bros. will be meeting with him, Jackson and Walsh this week to hammer out who will take on the job of directing The Hobbit. And until the announcement is made, why not partake in some wild speculation? I’m personally intrigued by the idea of Del Toro’s old buddy Alfonso Cuarón taking the reigns; between Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men, he certainly knows how to pull off sweeping spectacle with deep feeling. But who do you think should take the reigns of The Hobbit? Sam Mendes? Tim Burton? Michel Gondry? Someone else? Or do you think Del Toro can never be replaced?

More on The Hobbit:
‘The Hobbit’ eyed for December 2012 release
‘The Hobbit': Ian McKellen says July start
‘The Hobbit': Production could begin in mid-’10
‘The Hobbit': Tolkien estate lawsuit settled
‘The Hobbit': Hugo Weaving is in
‘The Hobbit': Peter Jackson joins writing team
‘The Hobbit': Guillermo del Toro will direct
‘The Hobbit’ a go: What to expect
‘The Hobbit': Peace in Middle Earth? How MGM and New Line agreed to make the film
‘The Hobbit': Is Peter Jackson coming back?

Comments (223 total) Add your comment
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  • Jay

    Sam Raimi.

    • ian g

      horrible idea. i like Cuaron… and Burton… God no. Don’t let him touch this. he makes good movies, but nothing good can come out of Tim Burton and Lord of the Rings

      • Rick Gershman

        Come on, Ian. I’ll listen to your argument if you think Raimi is a “horrible idea,” but at least MAKE an argument. Otherwise you make no point at all.

      • Inkling

        Yeah, that would be a cluster-f***. Thank God Del Toro stepped down before he ruined the franchise with his ridiculous messed up fantasy-creature ideas. Too bad Jackson can’t do it…

      • Jaja

        lol, except that the article states that the creature designs have already been finished with del toro’s input… and you do know that The Hobbit is going to be a (ridiculous messed up)fantasy film, right? Del Toro is a genius, and this is a big loss for the franchise.

      • topazbean

        Messed up fantasy creature ideas? Del Toro’s visual imagination is firmly rooted in European folk traditions – making him perfect for a film like this. I’m absolutely devastated he’s had to drop out. I can’t see anyone replacing him.

      • m.

        No Burton please! I don’t want to see Johnny Depp playing Gandalf and Helena Bonham Carter playing Bilbo!

      • Hank

        I’ll miss Del Toro, but I think Cuaron, Fernando Meirelles, or Ang Lee would be great alternatives (especially the first two).

      • Ryan


      • J.

        Alfonso Cuarón would be awesome. I was hoping he would do it before Del Toro!

      • becaboo

        I think Ang Lee is deceased.

      • AIan

        I agree with m. Tim Burton would be awful. Johnny Depp will be in it and it will be over the top and weird.

      • NIGHTWIN6

        Oh god, and Danny Elfman trying to imitate Howard Shore’s wonderful score in the first three movies. It will be like this all over again:

        See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.

      • Ana

        Ang Lee is alive and well. He’s currently working on “The Life of Pi,” so he’s probably not going to be available.

      • Nathan

        Please not Burton, I don’t want to see Johnny Depp as Bilbo.

      • Cguesty

        Cuaron would be better than Del Toro, IMHO. Wish Cuaron had done all the Harry Potter movies.

      • dj_tt

        Zack Snyder

      • Celia

        Tim Burton would be interesting, but Alfonso Cuaron would be PERFECT!! He and Del Toro are very close, so it’s very likely that Cuaron could do it. Del Toro almost did one of the Harry Potter films, because Cuaron recommended him.

    • Janequoia

      Everyone is replaceable. I think Alejandro González Iñárritu is another option.

      • Emma

        Why does it have to be a director who only dabbles in smaller pictures? How about…Spielberg?! This franchise could use a boost of his certain type of magic.

    • Beth

      J J ABRAMS. Nuf said.

      • Matt Tritton

        Darren Aronofsky is talented enough, for sure. But I don’t know if he can handle the scope of this project. I like Cuaron and Abrams from the suggestions thus far.

    • amj

      I would support Sam Raimi! I also like Cuaron. I think Burton and Spielberg, while great directors, would be the wrong choices for this. My friends and I are anxiously awaiting this one! Hope it’s good!

    • dj_tt

      Zack Snyder, brilliant director of Watchmen

  • whataya want from meat

    Hopefully no one. The LOTR series was as tedious a time at the cinema as I have ever experienced and the Hobbit is a big fat unnecessary waste of space.

    • Peter Del Toro

      You’re a waste of space

      • louie

        Then don’t watch and don’t even read news about it!

      • GGG

        I hate it when people comment about topics they hate. What is the point, other than to spew negative, hateful comments anonymously…

    • Ian

      Yeah, so tedious the trilogy won 17 Oscars and all 3 were best pic nominees, including a win when it was all complete. Oh, and billions at the box office. Yeah, a complete waste of space….moron

      • LOTR SUCKS

        Hey idiot: crash, driving miss daisy, shakespeare in love, rocky and dances with wolves also won oscars, and those movies suck!!!. Transformers has made more money then Snore of the rings.. does that mean that crapformers is a great movie just because it made tons of money? Get a better defensive argument you ‘tard!

      • @LOTR SUCKS

        if you actually thought driving miss daisey or dances with wolves sucked your even more of an idiot than i thought. which is why i thank god they dont let people like you choose who wins

      • @LOTR SUCKS

        Hey genious get your facts straight. Transformers 1 earned $700M and 2 = $800M, Fellowship = $870M, Two Towers = $925M, and Return = $1.2B.

      • turbo

        To be honest, the lord of the rings movie don’t really stand the test of time.. I tried watching them again on blueray and I kept falling asleep. So I just got rid of my bd copy by selling it on ebay… oh well…

      • Brian

        turbo, what does your inability to stay awake have to do with the movies’ quality? I just got the LOTR Blu-rays and watched them raptly into the wee hours of the morning — and I’ve seen them dozens of times already. Does this make them the greatest movies of all time? No, one person’s subjective response to a movie isn’t the last word.

      • turbo

        @brian: that’s because there’s never a LAST word. And ,my comment is my personal opinion. Glad you still like them, but to me, they’re boring now. So I won’t watch them again, and quite frankly, I don’t care about the hobbit either.

      • Ian

        @ LOTR SUCKS — Thanks for furthering my argument. You don’t even have the ability to form an intelligent sentence, so forgive me if I don’t take your opinions of film seriously. Yeah, those films won best pic, and lots of people love them even if you say they suck, but how many of them went 11-for-11 and swept every award they were nominated for? Plus, as was stated, all 3 Rings movies made more money than both Transformers movies, so yet another of your points is useless. Try not being a tard when you call someone else a tard, jackass…

      • Mike

        Standing the test of time means that they are campy or cheesy to knew generations, not when you decide to watch it for the nth time. That would be rewatchability. I agree, After watching each one 30x, they do get a bit old. Most get old after the first viewing, though.

    • Jay

      all they did was walk! walk some more and then did some more walking! bored me totally.

      • KEvSmI

        Yes, we’ve all seen Clerks II, jackass. Try forming your own thoughts.

      • Hiro Kitty

        Kevin Smith is the worst hack in showbusiness.

  • Timmy

    Oh please god not Sam Mendes. He’s so pretentious and glib. I think the author’s suggestion, Cuaron, is an excellent one.

    • Skip182

      I agree. It’d be weird, but the Hobbit was kinda weird anyway.

    • RyanK

      Yeah I like Mendes, but for smaller pics. I too would love to see what Cuaron could do. I’m not sure what sort of projects he has on his schedule right now.

      • TLR

        No. Cuaron did fine with Children of Men, but he completely messed up the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He would ruin The Hobbit.

    • GGG

      I agree!!!

  • lowell

    great webbing….

  • JOhnson

    Alfonso Cuaron is the safest bet. Azkaban was pretty solid. But I honestly don’t understand why PJ can’t just direct them for himself. It’s almost as though he fears they might suck and does not want to be directly responsible.

    • Inkling

      I haven’t been overly impressed with any of the Harry Potter movies (the last one specifically was a total Emperor-wearing-no-clothes situation; I thought it was easily THE worst of the bunch but because of the media’s spiking Harry Potter circle jerk it received overall rave reviews) though Azkaban certainly was the best of the bunch.

      Children of Men, on the other hand, is definitely a reason to consider him. What a strong film.

      • mary q contrary

        I actually loved it, and was so afraid to hear it wasn’t good that I avoided all reviews before seeing it a couple weeks after it came out. I thought it was easily the best of the bunch so far, even though it changed more (which I’m usually more than okay with, because I’m one of the few people I’ve talked to that really seems to understand what an ‘adaptation’ really means), and a lot of fans were really upset. I’ve read through all the books twice, some more than that, and my seven-year-old daughter has read them all too, as well as my husband. We’re pretty big Potter fans in this house, and we all enjoyed the 6th movie so much, we saw it at the drive-in, and then again at the theater. I think Cuaron is an amazing film maker, and would be so pleased if he were given the opportunity to direct The Hobbit (and willing to take it).

      • Molly M M

        Cuaron only directed Azkaban — none of the others. He’d be an excellent choice.

        I’d also enjoy seeing what Michel Gondry would do with the films, but I think I’d be in the minority there!

      • Shaun

        This getting off topic, but the 6th Potter movie is by far the worst of the bunch… Far too many liberties taken from the book, too many to mention here, but the most egregious errors were Harry just standing there and letting Dumbledore die (in the book, Harry COULDN’T help because he was immobilized and under his cloak) and not giving us Dumbledore’s funeral. The completely changed opening was stupid too. The last two HP films were lousy, and it doesn’t give me hope for the final two films.

      • Shaun

        Anway, Cuaron would be an awesome choice for The Hobbit. His HP movie was the best of the series (Yes, his film took liberties too but not nearly as severe and it was easily the most stylish of the six… Excellent adaptation). Children of Men is another total gem. He would be my #1 choice, for sure! Please NO Tim Burton!! He hasn’t made a good movie in ages, and when he adapts something (Batman, Charlie, Alice) it never turns out well.

      • Shaun

        Two other people who could make a great Hobbit: Neil Blokamp (Jackson discovered him, so it could happen) and Terry Gilliam. A Gilliam Hobbit could be amazing, but given how “cursed” his projects of late have been I kind of fear for what would happen if he took the reins.

      • Tollin

        If you read The Children of Men novel, you would see how “certain liberties” were taken as well. I think Cuaron really knows how to capture the tone of a book. It is also interesting to note that, with the exception of Y tu mamá también, all of his films have been adaptations.

    • Meli

      You didn’t read the article if you’re asking that question–PJ is too busy to take it on himself as a director. Plus he works as a producer and runs Wingnut Films. Too many irons in the fire already.

      Unfortunately if MGM ends up Going Turtle, the rights to the film will end up in the bankruptcy courts for decades.

      • JOhnson

        PJ should have taken up the task of directing the two movies from the get go. No one can adapt those books like he did.

      • Terry

        Problem is, movies take too long in development. Remember when the Bond films used to come out every 2 years like clockwork? Some great, some good, some not so good, but every 2 years. Then Pierce slowed them down wanting to do other things. Then Craig comes along and again, every 2 years, til now. We should have a Bond film coming out this year, but they dicked around now MGM is in trouble. And shit, what’s taking so long with the Hobbit? They’ve known they were gonna do it for 6 or 7 years now. At that pace, Tarantino could got it made.

    • Kim

      There’s only one battle in the Hobbit. Peter Jackson wouldn’t know what to do with the rest.

  • Jerv

    No one has mentioned Nancy Meyers or Fred Durst… Wuddup wit dat?

  • Tarc

    If there is no cash, why is there a need for a director? When the situation at MGM is settled, and the project is given a greenlight *then* be concerned about a direction. Idiots.

    • Johnification

      Scheduling? Other commitments? Building sets with a creative direction? Shot lists? Release timeline?

    • RyanK

      Idiots? So you’re suggesting the director doesn’t do anything until the cameras start rolling? Just read the article. The Hobbit hasn’t even begun shooting, yet del Toro’s fingerprints are already all over the look and feel of the movie.

  • Mariama

    For me personally, I don’t think Del Toro can ever be replaced. He’s gotta such a strong and vivid imagination that would’ve done wonders for the movie. The only other director that would’ve been perfect is Jackson and, well…

    • amj

      As much as I can say I would support Raimi, I do agree that I was so happy when I heard Del Toro was going to do it…only choice that made sense next to Jackson to me at first.

  • Dan

    Cuaron is a very, very good choice.

  • NO

    he was perfect. I am mad.

  • bummed fan

    Sam Mendes is an O.K. director, but he’s a hack.

    • Ian

      Uh…..by definition a hack is NOT an ok director. A hack would be a totally inept director, but a hack could not have made American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Revolutionary Road.


    Good riddance.. The lord of the ring flicks are the most tedious and overrated movies ever. And I believe the hobbit will be the same. So I hope it takes atleast 20 years for these movies to be made

    • mondo182

      So you hate the LotR movies but rather then just, say, not watch The Hobbit, you’d want to deprive the fans that actually do enjoy the movie from getting to see it too? How noble. I hate Sex in the City and Shrek …I just don’t watch them. Make 20 of them for all I care.

      • Quirky

        STOP FEEDING THE TROLLS! LOTR SUCKS is only posting those things to see how many angry replies he gets. It’s a troll’s way of keeping score.

      • Steve from DE

        You fool, trolls don’t keep score. They don’t know how to count.

    • An Answer

      Just to make you feel better, I’ve heard about something called ‘freewill.’ Which means that, you don’t ever have to see The Hobbit. Simple, huh?

    • Ian

      What kind of moron posts the same negative BS twice using different names? If you’re going to post it twice using different names in order to make it look like someone shares your opinion, you might try getting out a thesaurus and changing the wording a little bit. What a dumbass…

      • LOTR SUCKS

        Ian! You ignorant dumbtard!… there are more then one person that hates Snore of the rings. Yeah breaks your heart, and shocks your panties off I know, so yeah, me and the obviously smart gentleman above me that also despises these movies are completely different. Now, wipe your tears away, remove those silly elf ears, move out of your parent’s basement and try to find a girlfriend..

      • @LOTR SUCKS

        so why are you here commenting moron

      • mari

        LOTR SUCKS get your pretentious a** out of here.

      • Ian

        Wow, really put me in my place with one, huh? How can I possibly win a debate with genius remarks like ‘dumbtard’ being thrown out there?

  • mondo182

    Without Del Toro or Jackson as options, Cuaron would be the only other name I’d feel completely comfortable with from the names thrown out there. Or how about Gore Verbinksi. The Pirates movies were pretty darn epic. Even if the last two were bloated in terms of story, you can’t knock the action and at least Del Toro and Jackson are still the ones knocking out the script. Mayyybe Jackson protege, Neill Blomkamp, but with only District 9 to his credit, he’s still pretty unproven. Raimi? No. Burton? Hell no!

    • RyanK

      Props for having the gumption to mention Verbinski. The 2nd and 3rd Pirates scripts were horrible but you gotta admit he knows how to shoot a big movie.

  • hec

    Um….how about making one Hobbit movie and not two? Totally unnecessary.

    • Bezdomny

      Totally agree. No need for two movies, other than profit. And in my opinion Jackson is the best person to do ONE movie (to rule them all)!

    • googliezoo

      I kinda agree, unless they’re making them a bit shorter. They’d be more kid friendly if they come in at two hours or under. The Hobbit (the book) was much simpler than the LOTR so it makes sense if they want to make the movie(s) a little less dense as well, though you’re right, it’s more likely all about making more money….sigh….

      • Terry

        I love the guy, but I don’t think Peter Jackson is familiar with the word “shorter”.

  • devils sidekick

    sam raimi is a great pic but who really cares, id just wait tell the dvd anyways and it will probaly be 4 hr long.

    • JLB

      Terry Gilliam

      • Spencer

        I love that idea. Terry Gilliam would be wonderful. Or how about Wes Anderson? There’s a sense of… whimsy in the book “the Hobbit” that I feel he would be able to capture very well. I’m so bummed that Del Toro dropped the project….

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