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'Hobbit': Del Toro's explanation just leaves us with more questions

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Image Credit: Nick Wall/WireImage.comA week after Guillermo Del Toro’s announcement that he was stepping down from directing The Hobbit, the filmmaker has returned to Lord of the Rings fansite TheOneRing.net to provide a longer explanation for why he left the crazy-high-anticipated project. The problem is that his explanation leaned more on you-gotta-read-between-the-lines vagueness than here’s-what’s-going-down specifics, and like the finale of Lost, it’s left me with as many questions as satisfying answers.

“I’ve developed films for years and I have shot many a movie on location,” Del Toro posted to TheOneRing’s message boards yesterday, “but rarely do you relocate for such a massive amount of time, especially when you have to do major ironclad agreements to put in deep freeze other contractual obligations with multiple studios….So — while the cited delays, contractual complexities or obstacles, cannot be attributed to a single event or entity — you will simply have to believe that they were of sufficient complexity and severity to lead to the current situation. Trust me on this…leaving [New Zealand] and the Hobbit crew is extremely painful.”

While it’s clear that Del Toro became frustrated with having to put all of his other projects “in deep freeze” while working on The Hobbit, I’m left to wonder when he realized that was going to be a problem.

It’s just that the vast majority of those other projects — including a reported multi-picture deal with Universal for movies like Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and a reported adaptation of Pinocchio with the the Jim Henson Co. — were announced after Del Toro had signed on to The Hobbit, a commitment he stated at the time would last five years, which would have taken him through to the planned 2013 release of the second Hobbit movie. Were those other deals made with a specific end-date in mind for his Hobbit duties? Were the other studios beginning to clamor for Del Toro to focus on his commitments with them? Would some of those deals have been cancelled had Del Toro continued to work on The Hobbit? And what did LOTR guru (and Hobbit producer and co-screenwriter) Peter Jackson make of his director agreeing to take on so many other commitments?

I’ve interviewed Del Toro several times both on the phone and in person, and every time I found him to be an incredibly warm, voluble, and a genuine artist, usually unafraid to give a straightforward answer. So I believe him when he concludes his post by stating, “I am not here…to provide a blow-by-blow of what happened, but to assure you, as I have, that it has been the toughest situation of my life.” He also assures fans that he believes the movies will happen, and remains committed to a smooth transition to a new director with fellow screenwriters Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens. I just hope that at some point in the future, he’ll be able to tell the full story of why he walked away from this particular director’s chair.

Are you satisfied with Del Toro’s explanation? Or does it leave you with just more questions?

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