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After suffering setbacks due to legal issues, economic hardships and even part of a New Zealand workshop burning down, fans of Middle Earth have something to get excited about. TheWrap has it that MGM, New Line and Warner Bros. are all confirming “The Hobbit” has been greenlit to start production in early 2011 and that Peter Jackson will be directing both films (the book being split into two parts).
It feels like forever, but the project seems to be coming full circle, with much of the same crew taking on roles first explored in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In the case of Jackson, not only will he return to direct, but also produce and co-write the script, along with producing partners Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and newcomer to the series, Guillermo Del Toro, who was slated to direct until his departure in May (having worked for two years on the pre-production phase of the film). Last time this combination was put together, it resulted in a number of Oscar wins and one of the most successful film franchises in film history.
The project, while greenlit, is still not entirely out of the woods when it comes to production issues. Production disputes have yet to be settled regarding the Screen Actors Guild, and whether or not MGM and Warner Bros. will adhere to hiring specific SAG actors for the production. $30 million has already been spent, with an estimated $400 million being expected to make the two films and MGM is in the middle of filing for bankruptcy, either being absorbed by Spyglass Entertainment or Lionsgate (being a recent, potential turn of events).
Regardless, a time frame is now set for actors, director and crew to be in a specific place and a certain time to get the films made, hopefully for a December 2012 release.