Over the last four years, there has scarcely been another project in Hollywood that has been more highly anticipated - and has weathered more back-room corporate wrangling - than The Hobbit. So when filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy) announced today that he was dropping out of directing the two films planned for J.R.R. Tolkien's literary preamble to The Lord of the Rings, the news served as both a shock to fans and yet another casualty in the sad ongoing saga of MGM Studios.
As Del Toro and The Hobbit producer Peter Jackson explained to LOTR fansite TheOneRing.net, the two Hobbit films are still slated for release in Dec. 2012 and Dec. 2013. And Del Toro is still collaborating on the screenplay with Jackson and his LOTR co-screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. But why did Del Toro walk away from one of the most highly coveted director's chairs in modern cinema? And who could possibly step in to replace him? (Read on for why it won't be Peter Jackson.)
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