The Hobbit Movie
The Hobbit movie, a film adaptation of JRR Tolkien's classic novel, is being released in three annual installments. The first installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released on December 14, 2012. The second installment, The Desolation of Smaug will be released in December 2013 & the final installment, There and Back Again will appear the following December.
After the tremendous success of New Line Cinemas’ (and Director Peter Jackson’s) Lord of the Rings movies, film adaptations of JRR Tolkien’s epic novel, there is understandably plenty of anticipation and speculation about the forthcoming The Hobbit movie. The first installation has taken the adventure as far as the eagle's eyrie.
Ian Holm as an older Bilbo in
New Line's Fellowship of the Ring.
The casting rumors have begun to heat up in the past few weeks, though nothing has yet been officially announced. Peter Jackson announced last week that filming for The Hobbit movie would be pushed back from its original unofficial start date of March 2010 to early summer.
This is due in majority to the current instability of mother-company MGM. Peter Jackson confirmed that a budget for the film has not yet been approved, but denied that a slight delay in filming will cause a change in the targeted release dates of December 2011 & December 2012.
The Hobbit movie casting rumors have been rampant in the past week, and Jackson says that casting will begin in earnest as early as next week. Casting for the main role of Bilbo Baggins remains up in the air, though James McAvoy, Martin Freeman, & David Tennant are the most often-mentioned names. Thus far the only role already cast is that of Gandalf, where Sir Ian McKellen will reprise his award-winning role.
Other rumored casting possibilities include Scottish actor Brian Cox (presumably as a dwarf); harsh-voiced musician Tom Waits; and most recently British reality TV stars John & Edward Grimes (for the roles of Kili & Fili).
More Hobbit movie news will be released as casting is confirmed. Check back soon.
The lawsuit between New Line Cinema and The Tolkien Trust has officially been settled. This should clear the final real hurdle for Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro to complete the casting and move ahead with The Hobbit Movie.
The main role of Bilbo Baggins has not officially been filled, though Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) hinted at a gathering in late August that a decision on the role had already been reached. Progress on The Hobbit Movie will begin to gain momentum very quickly in the coming months.
I had missed this originally, but Tolkien scholar John D. Rateliff wrote down some of his thoughts on the making of The Hobbit movie at his blog a few weeks back. His comments are based on an interview that Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro did for the June issue of Empire magazine. There are very few people in the world who know The Hobbit as well as Mr. Rateliff, so his opinions on the films are always enlightening.
Guillermo del Toro has confirmed now that Hugo Weaving will return as Elrond in The Hobbit movie. Weaving joins Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Andy Serkis (Smeagol/Gollum) as returning cast members from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
Del Toro also hinted in a recent interview that he would be naming his choice for the key role - that of Bilbo Baggins - in the very near future. Stay tuned.
Guillermo del Toro has begun to clear away the fog of what material the two Hobbit movies will consist of. Speculation had been that the movies would consist of The Hobbit and a "bridge" film that would cover the intervening years between The Hobbit and the beginning of The Lord of the Rings.
Del Toro stated in an interview with Empire Online that the two planned movies will instead consist of more "off-screen" detail of The Hobbit "including the White Council and the comings and goings of Gandalf to Dol Guldur".
This (to me at least) is a welcome surprise and will help to tie The Hobbit film more securely to the Lord of the Rings films.
The Judge in the ongoing lawsuit between the Tolkien Trust and New Line Cinema over compensation for revenue from The Lord of the Rings movies has decided that "no punitive damages" could be assessed by the plaintiffs against New Line Cinema.
This basically means that the Tolkien Trust's attempt to block production of The Hobbit film will not be allowed to happen.
So while New Line Cinema (and parent company Warner Brothers) may still be on the hook for the full amount of the Tolkien Trust's lawsuit ($150 million) in compensatory damages, the Tolkien Trust will not be allowed to block production of a Hobbit movie.
It has been announced that the screenplay for The Hobbit movie will be co-written by Producer Peter Jackson, Director Guillermo del Toro, and Lord of the Rings script co-writers Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens.
This does not come as a surprise. Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens co-wrote the award-winning Lord of the Rings movie script, and del Toro has a history of writing his own scripts.
Guillermo del Toro spoke of The Hobbit movie recently at the Los Angeles film festival before the premier of his film Hellboy II and had some very interesting things to say.
Del Toro signed on back in April to direct two films, The Hobbit and a "bridge" between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson as Executive Producer.
In the recent interview with Sci Fi Wire del Toro hints that a second Hobbit movie may not be in the cards.
Most original reports were that both Hobbit movies would be shot back to back, as the Lord of the Rings films were.
Del Toro dismissed the idea, and expressed some doubt about a second movie. "We believe there is a second movie," del Toro said.
The copyright owned by the studio covers only The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so any bridge story created would need to come from those source texts and their "appendices". Writings published later in Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth would be off the table and the material therein unusable.
Del Toro adds: "If there isn't, there will not be. If we find it, we will shoot it, but by God, if we do not find it, we will not shoot it. I am anxious to shoot the book, and I'm willing and able to dedicate myself to shooting [the second film]. It is too early right now to say."
In other news, names have been been bandied about concerning casting. Ian McKellen will be back as Gandalf, but the other roles remain wide open.
One name that has been tossed out frequently for the main role of Bilbo Baggins is James McAvoy, but all involved deny that any negotiations have begun or decisions made.
Check this page, and the Tolkien News page often for updates on casting, filming, and the ongoing legal battle between New Line and The Tolkien Trust (see more info below).
Background of The Hobbit Movie
Back in December of 2007, LotR director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema reached an agreement where Jackson would serve as the Executive Producer of The Hobbit movie.
Back in that far distant past, the future of The Hobbit movie was looking rosy. Casting was scheduled to start in '08, with filming in '09 and 2010 & 2011 release dates for two planned movies.
Legal issues (more details below), have somewhat clouded those dates and brought the future of The Hobbit movie into question. But New Line/Warner Bros. have moved forward with the film in spite of the looming lawsuit.
Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro has signed on to direct the films, the first covering The Hobbit the second bridging the sixty-year span between the events in The Hobbit and those in The Lord of the Rings.
The legal rights surrounding The Hobbit movie became even murkier in mid-February, when the announcement was made that the Tolkien Estate & UK Tolkien publisher HarperCollins filed a $150 million lawsuit against New Line for breach of contract related to the first Lord of the Rings films. They also filed to block any attempt by New Line to move forward with The Hobbit.
This was the final straw for Warner Bros., New Line's parent company, who folded the troubled studio.
Warner Bros. is still planning to move forward with the film(s), but its still unclear what role this massive lawsuit is going to play in the future of The Hobbit and what rights will be granted to the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins by the courts.
This page, and the Tolkien News page, will be updated as more information becomes available.
Below is a capsule (somewhat dated) of the history of The Hobbit movie up to this point.
This latest lawsuit was just the final in a long line of lawsuits against New Line Cinema. Up until late last year, New Line was embroiled in a lawsuit with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, who claims the studio withheld profits from merchandising, computer games, and video games.
This lawsuit seriously strained the relationship between Jackson and New Line studio head Bob Shaye, who mentioned late in 2006 that New Line would never work with Jackson again, and that preparation for a Hobbit film would move forward without him.
In light of Jackson's recent appointment as Executive Producer, the situation is obviously much less strained than it was previously.
The announcement of Jackson's role as Executive Producer was followed by a few pieces of information regarding the studio's intentions with The Hobbit.
The movie will begin production in 2009, and will be comprised of two films. Indications are that one film will be comprised of The Hobbit and the second a kind of bridge between that and The Lord of the Rings.
With Jackson as the Executive Producer, the director's chair is still in limbo, though it has recently been reported by a number of media outlets that MGM/New Line is close to a deal with Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro.
Spiderman director Sam Raimi and Alfonso Cuaron (director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) were both mentioned as early candidates, but all signs right now are pointing to del Toro.
From a casting standpoint, Ian McKellan, who comprised the role of Gandalf in the LotR movies – has expressed his interest in returning to the role. Any further casting, including the role of a younger Bilbo Baggins, is yet to be decided. Ian Holm, who played Bilbo so splendidly in The Lord of the Rings movies, is too old for the role and has stated as much.
MGM, who owns the Hobbit film’s distribution rights (I know, its like a big jigsaw puzzle of legal rights, I’ll explain more below), was unhappy with New Line’s decision not to mend fences with Jackson, and may have played a major role in changing New Line's hard anti-Jackson stance.
New Line has been in a box-office slump since 2005’s Wedding Crashers, and it desperately needs The Hobbit movie to reverse its fortunes, just as The Fellowship of the Ring film did in 2001.
For those still interested, I'll leave up the overview of complex legal rights involved in The Hobbit movie.
OVERVIEW OF LEGAL RIGHTS
The legal rights behind The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films have a somewhat complicated history. Here is a brief timeline:
- 1969 – JRR Tolkien sells the film rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to United Artists/MGM
- 1976 - United Artists/MGM sells the film rights to Saul Zaentz for $10,000
- 1977 - Zaentz forms Tolkien Enterprises to deal solely with the film rights to Tolkien’s works.
- 1977 - Rankin Bass releases made-for-TV animated film adaptation of The Hobbit
- 1978 - Zaentz produces an animated version of The Lord of the Rings, directed by animator Ralph Bakshi. This film covered approximately the first half of The Lord of the Rings narrative.
- 1980 - Rankin Bass releases animated version of The Return of the King
- 1997 - Saul Zaentz sells the film rights to Miramax studios
- 1998 - New Line Cinemas purchases the film rights from Miramax
That covers the most of the complex legal history of The Hobbit
and The Lord of the Rings
So, it appears that The Hobbit will be made, though who will be in the director’s seat when that happens is still up in the air.
My greatest hope is that they remain true to the spirit of the The Hobbit book, which has a much lighter tone than The Lord of the Rings.
Will they resist the urge to make Bilbo’s “magic ring” into the sinister One Ring? Some foreshadowing of its menacing power might be appropriate, but I can foresee darkened scenes and eerie music whenever the Ring is involved, which would not be appropriate to the story. We’ll just have to wait and see.
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