The studio decides to look for a different director for ''The Hobbit''

By Missy Schwartz
Updated November 24, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

Peter Jackson and the Lord of the Rings franchise — the two go together like Frodo and Sam. At least they used to. Last week, Jackson and partner Fran Walsh announced on that New Line had informed them that they ”would no longer be requiring our services” for two upcoming Tolkien-based films, The Hobbit and a LOTR prequel. Moreover, the duo said the studio is ”actively looking to hire another filmmaker.”

The shocking news came just a few months after reports surfaced that New Line and MGM, which each own pieces of the rights to The Hobbit, were close to offering Jackson both projects. What went wrong? New Line declined to comment, but Jackson speculated online that the problem was the result of his company Wingnut Films’ ongoing lawsuit against the studio over profits from 2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring. ”[Exec VP and COO Mark] Ordesky said that New Line has a limited time option on the film rights…and because we won’t discuss making the movies until the lawsuit is resolved, the studio is going to have to hire another director,” Jackson wrote. ”We are very sorry [this] has been ended in this way.”

So, no doubt, are Jackson’s legion of fans, whose feverish devotion helped turn the LOTR trilogy into a multibillion-dollar megahit. Will they follow another director back to Middle-earth? Not even the great wizard Gandalf has the answer to that.