Right at the beginning of Comic Con, Variety issued a report that talk of a third Hobbit film from director Peter Jackson was just that: talk. And it was talk that not even many people had heard yet. There was much scoffing: “of course it is just two films!” Warner Bros. and the associated studios working on the film have had December release dates locked in for two films for some time now.

And then Jackson started doing interviews. We know the director has shot a great amount of footage for The Hobbit, and that he probably has enough to fill out not only two theatrical features, but blown-up expanded editions in the mode of his Lord of the Rings films.

Turns out Jackson wants to shoot even more footage, if Warner Bros. will foot the bill. Could that lead to three Hobbit films rather than two?

Let’s put this in order. Variety’s report of Warner Bros. denial of the third film was like a pre-emptive strike, as it came out a day before Jackson started telling people at Comic Con that he wants to make a third film. He told ComingSoon,

It’s very premature. I mean we have an incredible source material with the appendices because ‘The Hobbit’ is obviously a novel but we also have the rights to use this 125 pages of additional notes where Tolkien expanded the world of ‘The Hobbit’ published at the end of ‘Return of the King’ and we’ve used some of it so far and just in the last few weeks as we’ve been wrapping up the shooting and thinking about the shape of the story, Fran and I have been talking to the studio about other things we haven’t been able to shoot and seeing if we persuade them to do a few more weeks of shooting, probably more than a few weeks actually, next year. And what form that would actually end up taking, well the discussions are pretty early. So there isn’t really anything to report but there’s other parts of the story that we’d like to tell that we haven’t been able to tell yet.

And he told HitFix (video at the link) when asked about splitting the second film,

That’s a discussion we’re having, yeah. We have certainly been talking to the studio about some of the material we can’t film, and we’ve been asking them so we can do a bit more filming next year. Which, I don’t know what would come of that, whether it’d be extended editions or whatnot. But those discussions are ongoing.

So is Warner Bros. trying to head off a third movie? The timing of everything here is slightly odd. For the time being, the Variety article linked at the head of this post, in which Warner Bros. says there are and always will be only two Hobbit films should perhaps be considered the authoritiative word on the subject, at least for now.

But extended editions are very likely, as Jackson said during the panel for the first film at Comic Con:

People often assume we earmark scenes for the Extended Edition, which is not true. It may be that we write a scene halfway through the shoot we think we need to tell the story. It’s not until you assemble the film that you start to decide. You end up with a film that’s too long that you need to trim down in order to distribute it… We don’t really know until we get to the end what’s going to be in the extended cut. There will certainly be extended cuts of these I’m sure.

It’s fair to even ask what would be in a third film. There are a few different explanations of where all this material comes from, but Deadline has a great rundown:

…we haven’t just adapted The Hobbit; we’ve adapted that book plus great chunks of his appendices and woven it all together. The movie explains where Gandalf goes; the book never does. We’ve explained it using Tolkien’s own notes. That helped inform the tone of the movie, because it allowed us to pull in material he wrote in The Lord of the Rings era and incorporate it with The Hobbit. So we kept the charm and the whimsy of the fairy tale quality through the characters. Through the dwarves and Bilbo, who is more of a humorous character. He doesn’t try to be funny but we find him funny and find his predicament more amusing than that of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. That was more serious. So the whimsy is there, but tonally I wanted to make it as similar to The Lord of the Rings, because I wanted it to be possible for the people, the crazy people in the world who want to watch these films back to back one day…

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