Sydney Morning Herald
November 22, 2006
In news that has upset Tolkien fans around the world, the director Peter Jackson has been replaced on two planned prequels to The Lord of the Rings, including The Hobbit.
The New Zealand filmmaker has revealed that the Hollywood studio New Line Cinema, which backed the landmark trilogy, is seeking a new director for the two films.
In a letter to a Tolkien website, Jackson and his partner, Fran Walsh, said a studio executive had called to say their services were not required.
"This was a courtesy call to let us know that the studio was now actively looking to hire another filmmaker for both projects," they wrote.
"This outcome is not what we anticipated or wanted, but neither do we see any positive value in bitterness and rancour. We now have no choice but to let the idea of a film of The Hobbit go and move forward with other projects."
The Rings trilogy has won 17 Oscars and made almost $US3 billion at the box office.
New Line's move follows Jackson's production company, Wingnut Films's legal action against the studio claiming it was denied a proper share of profits from The Fellowship of the Ring.
Jackson said he had been expecting to make The Hobbit and the other prequel back-to-back like the original trilogy.
But an executive said "because we won't discuss making the movies until the lawsuit is resolved, the studio is going to have to hire another director".
One fan wrote to TheOneRing website saying he felt like there had been a death in the family. Another called for a boycott of all New Line films.
While there were moves for an email campaign and a petition supporting Jackson yesterday, some fans felt other directors could make the films just as well.
The situation mirrors an ultimatum given to Jackson when he was developing The Lord of the Rings for Miramax Films in 1997. That studio's co-founder, Harvey Weinstein, threatened to replace him with Shakespeare in Love's John Madden if he did not turn the Tolkien novel into a single movie.
Allowed a month to find another studio, Jackson famously convinced New Line to make three films instead.
Given Jackson's vast involvement in the trilogy's success, it is possible New Line executives are bluffing so he will drop the law suit. But if there is no backdown, replacing him successfully will be difficult given the scrutiny from some of the film world's most rabid fans.
Two films shot outside New Zealand without the input of The Lord of the Rings visual effects house, would be a huge risk.