As you may have heard by now, two new films set in the lands of Middle-Earth are coming our way. The first is an adaptation of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien’s precursor to The Lord of the Rings, and the second is a film bridging the 60 year gap between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Naturally, it was assumed that Peter Jackson would be returning to direct the two films, but when he announced that he would only be producing them, the Intertubes became abuzz with discussion as to who would occupy the director’s chair.
It has now been confirmed that Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) will be taking over directorial duties. And personally, I couldn’t be more excited. While del Toro’s films have certainly been darker and bloodier than perhaps The Hobbit warrants, I’m hard-pressed to think of a director who gets fantasy and fairy tales as well as del Toro. Just watch Pan’s Labyrinth or The Devil’s Backbone if you don’t believe me.
Both Jackson and del Toro recently did a huge web chat in which they answered many fan-submitted questions concerning the two new films, including: del Toro’s vision for Middle-Earth, Jackson’s role, which actors are returning from Jackson’s trilogy, and so on. And I have to say, I’m even more encouraged. I just think that, minor quibbles and concerns aside, these two men have got it figured out. You can read the full transcript of the chat here, and I certainly suggest that you do so, but I’m going to highlight a couple of interesting sections.
Regarding The Hobbit being a lighter, more children-oriented tale, as opposed to the darker and more somber Lord Of The Rings:
Guillermo del Toro: …the book, I believe, in echoing the “loss of innocence” England experienced after WWI, is a passage form innocence to a darker, more somber state- The visual / thematic progression should reflect that in the camera style, color palette, textural choices, etc.
Peter Jackson: As I said earlier, I personally feel that The Hobbit can, and should have a different tone. The “tone” of these stories shouldn’t be defined by the pressure our characters were under in LOTR. The world is a different place at the time of the Hobbit. The shadow is not so dark. However, what should stay the same is the reality of Middle-earth, and the integrity we bring to it as film makers.
Regarding the material for the second film:
Guillermo del Toro: The idea is to find a compelling way to join THE HOBBIT and FELLOWSHIP and enhance the 5 films both visually an in their Cosmology. There’s omissions and material enough in the available, licensed material to attempt this. The agreement is, however, that the second film must be relevant and emotionally strong enough to be brought to life but that we must try and contain the HOBBIT in a single film.
Peter Jackson: I’m really looking forward to developing Film Two. It gives us a freedom that we haven’t really had on our Tolkien journey. Some of you may well say that’s a good thing of course! The Hobbit is interesting in how Tolkien created a feeling of dangerous events unfolding, which preoccupy Gandalf. There’s an awful lot of incident that happens during that 60 year gap. At this stage, we’re not imagining a film that literally covers 60 years, like a bio-pic or documentary. We would figure out what happens during that 60 years, and choose one short section of time to drop in and dramatise for the screen. I’m really interested in how it effects The Hobbit — do we show what happens to Gandalg during his trips away? We’ll see. We may well have seeds for Film Two that we’ll subtly sow during The Hobbit.
And finally, regarding which actors are coming back to The Hobbit:
Guillermo del Toro: Obviously, at this stage, the second film is still being figured out- so the actors that have been approached may or not have appeared in the HOBBIT as a literary work but still may appear in the second film as it “blends” into the Trilogy and expands. Therefore what can be said is: Unequivocally, every single actor that originated a role in the Trilogy will be asked to participate and reprise it. If Health, availability or willigness become obstacles — and only in that case recasting would be considered.
Peter Jackson: Like Guillermo says, apart from extreme circumstances, we would never recast a character who appeared in the LOTR trilogy. You can read The Hobbit and pretty much see which characters play a part. The unknown facter is Film Two, which we are still developing. If we wished to write one of the LOTR characters into the narrative of Film Two, we would only do that with that actors blessing, and willingess to take part. Otherwise we’d take the writing in another direction.
Both of the new films will be made back-to-back, with The Hobbit set to be released in December 2011 (ten years after Fellowship of the Ring came out in theatres) and the second film released in December 2012.