After more delays in obtaining a go-ahead for production on the highly-anticipated Hobbit films, Guillermo del Toro ( Pan's Labryrinth, Hellboy films) has pulled out of directing the two-part prequel to The Lord of the Rings.
His decision came after continued postponements due to the MGM studio's financial difficulties, and a still uncertain start date.
The director will complete the screenplays along with Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens ( The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, The Lovely Bones) about the story of Bilbo Baggins' journey to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim a treasure taken by a dragon.
He made the announcement in TheOneRing.net, expressing his hope that Jackson would direct: "I am faced with the hardest decision of my life. After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien's Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures."
Jackson responded to fans in TheOneRing emphasizing that Guillermo's vision and creative DNA are in the scripts.
With several other films in development, including Pinocchio, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein, del Toro couldn't commit to stay in New Zealand for six years instead of three years.
MGM's limbo state has also affected the shooting of the next James Bond film which is on hold.