Budget blow-outs, an industrial dispute, even a race row have threatened to derail the latest JRR Tolkien blockbuster, The Hobbit. To that list can now be added a perforated ulcer, courtesy of director Sir Peter Jackson, who was taken to hospital in the New Zealand capital, Wellington, on Wednesday.
Jackson, who had severe stomach pains, underwent surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, according to his publicist. But the illness will delay the start of filming in his native New Zealand of the two-part prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
According to New Zealand media, the Oscar-winning director was scouting for locations on the South Island last week, with the help of five helicopters. Yesterday it was not clear when he would be discharged. Filming was due to start next month.
Once massively overweight, Jackson shed nearly five stone in 10 months in 2005, an achievement he attributed to hard work. His health has been good since then.
The Hobbit has already been plagued by financial problems, a row over distribution rights and the departure of the original director, Guillermo del Toro. Last October, Jackson threatened to move the US$500m (£313m) production offshore, after it was blacklisted by Actors Equity New Zealand and the union's British and US affiliates.
It took an intervention by the Prime Minister, John Keys – plus changes to labour laws and a multimillion-dollar tax break for Jackson's company – to persuade him to stay in New Zealand.