Jackson Reportedly Out of 'The Hobbit'

Peter Jackson has told a popular fansite that New Line is planning to make "The Hobbit" without the involvement of the Oscar-winning team behind the "Lord of the Rings" movies.

The site TheOneRing.net received a letter from Jackson and partner Fran Walsh on Sunday (Nov. 19) explaining the situation and the parting of ways.

"Dear One Ringers," the note begins, "As you know, there's been a lot of speculation about The Hobbit. We are often asked about when or if this film will ever be made. We have always responded that we would be very interested in making the film -- if it were offered to us to make."

One of the major complications with the "Hobbit" project has always been a rights issue between New Line and MGM, though MGM revealed earlier this year that plans were underway to develop "The Hobbit" and other Tolkien materials as a two-part prequel to the "Lord of the Rings" films. At the time, media reports had MGM hoping to work with Jackson and his team on the two movies.

"It was a little weird at the time because nobody from New Line had ever spoken to us about making a film of The Hobbit and the media had some fun with that," Jackson and Walsh say in the OneRing letter.

The problem, though, seems to be that Jackson's Wingnut Films had brought a lawsuit against New Line stemming from an audit on money earned by "The Fellowship of the Ring."

The letter implies that New Line suggested to Jackson that tying a deal for "The Hobbit" to a settlement of the law suit might be mutually beneficial, but the filmmakers weren't comfortable with that sort of quid pro quo.

"Deciding to make a movie should come from the heart -- it's not a matter of business convenience," they write. "When you agree to make a film, you're taking on a massive commitment and you need to be driven by an absolute passion to want to get the story on screen. It's that passion, and passion alone, that gives the movie its imagination and heart. To us it is not a cold-blooded business decision."

Jackson indicates that he had begun thinking about the "Hobbit" films and that he was even prepared to begin developing the movies next year during the long-planned production on "The Lovely Bones. But New Line opted to go a different way.

"However last week, [New Line exec] Mark Ordesky called Ken and told him that New Line would no longer be requiring our services on the 'Hobbit' and the 'LOTR' 'prequel'. This was a courtesy call to let us know that the studio was now actively looking to hire another filmmaker for both projects."

The decision was reportedly officially based on New Line's limited window on the option to the "Hobbit" rights, a window jeopardized by Jackson and team's refusal to tie a deal with a suit settlement.

"This outcome is not what we anticipated or wanted, but neither do we see any positive value in bitterness and rancor," they write. "We now have no choice but to let the idea of a film of The Hobbit go and move forward with other projects."

By Monday morning, online reaction to this news had been loud and almost entirely unhappy.

If the decision actually was made based on a tight timetable, an announcement on a new filmmaking team should come soon.