They announced the other day that they were going to go ahead with production of "The Hobbit" and do it without Lord of the Rings helmer and preeminent geek god Peter Jackson in the director's chair. This is due in no small part to Jackson biting the hand that fed him so incredibly well - accusing New Line of deceptive accounting practices and demanding that the company submit to an audit. Jackson and company sued New Line and threatened not to do the LOTR prequel. New line told him to kiss off and the rest is history.
"This outcome is not what we anticipated or wanted, " Jackson said last November, "But neither do we see any positive value in bitterness and rancor. We now have no choice but to let the idea of a film of The Hobbit go and move forward with other projects."
But with the clock ticking on New Line's exclusive rights to produce the Tolkien story, they have decided to push forward with the production without Jackson. Rumors are flying that it might be Spiderman director Sam Raimi, but nothing is confirmed.
Premiere magazine recently spoke with director James Cameron, currently shooting his latest mega-million-dollar epic "Avatar" at the production facility that was built and paid for with the funds Jackson received for his LOTR directing. Cameron said that New Line's reluctance to submit to an audit is "bizzare":
Admitting that he's speaking out of turn, Cameron intimates that the easiest explanation for New Line's behavior is that it has something to hide.
So does New Line have something to hide, or are they just not willing to bend to the rantings of a director -albeit a wildly popular one - that has helped to make the company billions of dollars over the past 5 years?
In an interview with The New York Times, New Line co-chairman and founder Robert K. Shaye, confirmed that they will be going ahead with "The Hobbit", no matter what, with their eyes on a 2009 release.
Without specifically saying he would not make the film with Mr. Jackson, Mr. Shaye made it plain that he had no interest in working with difficult filmmakers. “Some directors are impossible,” he said. “Are there a few people I wouldn’t work with? Yes, but I won’t name names.”
Gee, that's mighty big of him. I wonder who he could be talking about?
Shaye also would not comment on the Sam Raimi rumor. He did say however, that although there was no workable script yet for the film, he intended to release it in 2009.
So the script isn't written yet and New Line is being tight lipped about the director, which suggests that they don't have anything inked.. Our guess is that no matter who directs it, thousands of geeks in Gandalf hats and plastic swords on their side will no-doubt be boycotting the film when it is finally released.