Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth and the upcoming Hellboy II release) has officially signed on to direct the New Line/MGM’s The Hobbit and its sequel, this according to Variety.
The debate about who would direct the adaptation of the novel that preceded LOTR has been discussed greatly on the Net in the past few months. The top two names seemed to be Del Toro and Sam Raimi. But on Thursday, the announcement was made in a press conference that saw executive producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, New Line president Toby Emmerich, and Mary Parent, newly named chief of MGM’s Worldwide Motion Picture Group.
The article in Variety goes on to say that Del Toro will be moving to New Zealand for the next four years to work with Jackson and his Wingnut and Weta production teams. He’ll direct the two films back to back, with the sequel dealing with the 60-year period between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
New Line is overseeing development and will manage production. Both films are being co-produced and co-financed by New Line Cinema and MGM, with Warner Bros. distributing domestically and MGM handling international.
With Del Toro blocking out four years for the project, it’s likely that the studios are aiming at starting shooting next year and releasing the films in late 2011 and 2012.