, you know how MGM is planning on making not one, but two Hobbit movies? And you know how they were talking about bringing Peter Jackson back to direct them?

Not gonna happen.

It turns out that New Line, who will be going halfsies on the films (one would be a straight adaptation of The Hobbit while the other would draw from “other sources” to fill in the gap between that book and Fellowship of the Ring), has put their foot down and cut Jackson out of the proceedings.

That’s what he’s claiming anyway, and he says it all comes down to a lingering lawsuit he has with New Line in regards to money from the Lord of the Rings films. He sent an email to the kids at One Ring, and here’s some of what it said:

A couple of months ago there was a flurry of Hobbit news in the media. MGM, who own a portion of the film rights in The Hobbit, publicly stated they wanted to make the film with us. 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. Within a week or two of those stories, our Manager Ken Kamins got a call from the co-president of New Line Cinema, Michael Lynne, who in essence told Ken that the way to settle the lawsuit was to get a commitment from us to make the Hobbit, because "that’s how these things are done". Michael Lynne said we would stand to make much more money if we tied the lawsuit and the movie deal together and this may well be true, but it’s still the worst reason in the world to agree to make a film.

Several years ago, Mark Ordesky told us that New Line have rights to make not just The Hobbit but a second "LOTR prequel", covering the events leading up to those depicted in LOTR. Since then, we’ve always assumed that we would be asked to make The Hobbit and possibly this second film, back to back, as we did the original movies. We assumed that our lawsuit with the studio would come to a natural conclusion and we would then be free to discuss our ideas with the studio, get excited and jump on board. We’ve assumed that we would possibly get started on development and design next year, whilst filming The Lovely Bones. We even had a meeting planned with MGM executives to talk through our schedule.
However last week, 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.
Ordesky said that New Line has a limited time option on the film rights they have obtained from Saul Zaentz (this has never been conveyed to us before), and because we won’t discuss making the movies until the lawsuit is resolved, the studio is going to have to hire another director.

We got to go there – but not back again …

It seems unusual for this to be playing out in such a public way, but it’s appealing to the industry gossip in me!

I don’t think this is the worst turn of events, by the way. I think Peter Jackson needs to move on not just from big, expensive movies but from Middle Earth in general. Five films in the same series is far too Lucasian for my tastes, and I would rather see Jackson investing the five years of effort those two films would take into something new and original. But if Jackson is out, and if things are as sour between him and New Line as that email makes it sound, will people like Ian McKellan be willing to come back? And if not, is there really a point in making the film?

Click here to read the whole email. Now let’s see who gets hired for The Hobbit