'The Hobbit' greenlit; Peter Jackson will direct

peter-jackson-getty.jpgThe long and twisty off-screen journey of "The Hobbit" looks like it's finally coming to an end: The much-anticipated production finally has a start date.

"The Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson has finalized a deal to direct the two-film prequel in addition to co-writing the script and producing. Filming is scheduled to begin in New Zealand in February, The Wrap reports.

The green light for "The Hobbit" ends a years-long preproduction saga involving financing (Warner Bros. and the financially shaky MGM are co-producing it), a director -- Guillermo del Toro initially signed on, then dropped out, and Jackson wavered for some time before agreeing to helm the project -- and other issues. In fact, not all those issues are yet resolved: Negotiations over whether "The Hobbit" will use Screen Actors Guild members are ongoing.