'The Hobbit' delayed as Jackson undergoes surgery

Filming on Peter Jackson's troubled "The Hobbit" project is likely to be further delayed after the New Zealand director underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer, his publicist said Thursday.

The Oscar-winning filmmaker was admitted to Wellington Hospital suffering acute stomach pains on Wednesday night and doctors operated after diagnosing the problem, publicist Melissa Booth said.

She said doctors expected Jackson to make a full recovery but there would be a "slight delay" to filming of the J. R. R. Tolkien saga, which had been scheduled to begin next month.

Asked how long Jackson could be sidelined as he recovers from the operation, Booth said: "How long is a piece of string?"

The $500 million project, a two-part prequel to "The Lord of the Rings", has been dogged by problems, including a union dispute last year that saw studios threaten to move it from New Zealand.

Previously, it had been stalled for years by wrangling over distribution rights, reported budget blowouts and financial woes at the MGM studio, prompting director Guillermo del Toro to quit last year.

It even became embroiled in a race row in November, when a casting agent was sacked for telling a woman with an Indian background that she was too dark to be a Hobbit.

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