Peter Jackson

In the wake of yesterday’s news that Guillermo del Toro has walked away from directing the two Hobbit films for MGM and Warner Bros., the big question is ‘who will do the job now?’

The first name that comes up is Peter Jackson — after he essentially revitalized big-budget fantasy with the Lord of the Rings films, Jackson seems like the only real choice to direct the story that leads into that saga. And he sounds like he would, if that’s what it takes, but doesn’t think he’ll be able to, thanks to contracts for other films.

Speaking to The Dominion Post in New Zealand, Jackson says,

If [directing the films is] what I have to do to protect Warner Bros’ investment, then obviously that’s one angle which I’ll explore…The other studios may not let me out of the contracts.

That’s not the most encouraging statement, for two reasons. One is that his contracts could prevent him from directing The Hobbit; the other is that he doesn’t sound terribly interested in making the films. Do you really want Jackson directing if he’s doing it primarily to protect studio investments? (The extension of which, of course, is that he’s protecting his own investment. But still.) The answer might still be ‘yes,’ especially depending on what other names get thrown out as possible directors.

Jackson’s statement echoes what his manager, Ken Kamins, said yesterday:

[Peter Jackson can't consider directing] at this time because he has and has had other commitments and obligations to other projects. That said, he and Fran will stop at nothing to protect this franchise and the investment made by New Line, Warners and MGM.

The primary other commitment is Tintin, which Jackson is making with Steven Spielberg. The principal mo-cap photography has long been finished for the first film, and Jackson will have to move forward on Tintin 2, which he’ll direct, starting in 2011.

Jackson doesn’t know when the film will be able to move forward. “I just don’t know now until we get a new director. The key thing is that we don’t intend to shut the project down…We don’t intend to let this affect the progress. Everybody, including the studio, wants to see things carry on as per normal. The idea is to make it as smooth a transition as we can.”

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