The films will be a prequel to the wildly popular Lord of the Rings series, which grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide and will be executive produced by Lord of the Rings overlord Peter Jackson and his co-screenwriter/wife Fran Walsh.
They will follow the titular hairfoot, Bilbo Baggins, and his adventures with the wizard Gandalf, both of whom also appeared in LOTR. The sequel will mark the first time the series has traveled beyond Tolkien’s work, as it will seek to fill in the period between The Hobbit and the Rings films, according to Variety.
While no script has been written, Jackson, Walsh and their other Rings writing collaborator Philippa Boyens are expected to sign on soon. Del Toro will block out the next four years in his schedule to shoot the films back-to-back in New Zealand.
Jackson called Del Toro, “A true original…a cinematic magician who has never lost his childlike sense of wonder. We are delighted ‘The Hobbit’ is in such trustworthy hands.”
Del Toro, for his part, called the deal “a great honor.” And said he was “indeed blessed to become a part of the filmmaking community that Peter, Fran and their extraordinary team of collaborators have created in New Zealand.”
Aside from the Oscar-nominated Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro is best known for directing the Hellboy series.