During Peter Jackson’s Comic-Con chat last Thursday, the conversation quickly turned to the status of Guillermo del Toro’s two-part adaptation of The Hobbit, which he’s producing and co-writing. Some highlights:
On the status of the Hobbit script:
"I would say, give or take a little tailwind, we’re about three weeks from turning over the first script for the first Hobbit movie to the studio. The process that we’ve been through so far is we — and when I say ‘we,’ it’s the four of us: Guillermo, Philippa [Boyens], Fran [Walsh] and myself — wrote like an extensive treatment of the two films which we pitched to the studio on a long conference call, and that was like three or four months ago. That was good; that went well and they liked the idea ... About three months ago we started in earnest to write the screenplay, which we’re now about three weeks away from delivering the first film.
On potential casting choices:
We haven’t done any casting yet. That’s the truth — there’s all these rumors about people but we haven’t offered a single role to any actor yet because everything is a process and we haven’t got the green light and we haven’t got a budget ... We’ve been talking about releasing the first movie in December 2011 and the second in December 2012 and that’s what we’re aiming for. But we’ve only ever been aiming for it and the studio obviously is not going to sign off on a films until they see a script and the budgeting for that script.
On the Thirteen Dwarves and how they’ll be portrayed on-screen:
We always wanted to retain the thirteen dwarves that Tolkien wrote about. It’s not wise or sensible to be mucking around with that degree of Tolkien lore. So we have thirteen dwarves to cast — it’s going to be a lot of fun. [Laughs] There’s thirteen poor guys who are going to be walking around the mountains in summer wearing big, thick costumes and sweating under their prosthetic makeup. It’s gonna be tough — very, very tough. It is logistically very difficult. You imagine getting those guys through wardrobe and makeup at the beginning of each day and then having them ready to shoot and they’re gonna be passing out in the heat. It’s gonna be tricky. Some of the dwarves are obviously more important than others. We’re isolating about four or five of them to make them the key dwarf players and then the others will be more supporting roles.
On why they chose to split the story into two films:
We worked through the storyline and we thought, Well, obviously we could squeeze The Hobbit into one movie, but even with a three-hour movie you’d be amazing at how much of the story you’d have to lose. It’s weird — the book is what the book is, and we just worked through the process of including what we’d like to see in a film and it was clear that it wasn’t gonna fit. Plus, the fact that we want to embellish a few things and put a little bit of extra narrative in for Gandalf and what he’s doing with Dol Guldor and the Necromancer and various sort of side stories that are happening. So we decided that the two movies that we were doing should be The Hobbit Part One and Part Two.
On why he chose Guillermo del Toro to direct The Hobbit:
Guillermo’s there not because I’m a mentor of him but I just thought that he would do a terrific job with that film. It wasn’t the type of movie ... I didn’t think to give [it] to a young novice filmmaker and have them sort of Godfather it through. I wanted somebody who was established, who I could trust. And also, with The Hobbit, I don’t want to be too involved in looking over the shoulder of the director.
On why he decided against directing The Hobbit himself:
One of the reasons why I wanted to produce the movie but not direct it was so that I didn’t have to compete against myself. With the Lord of the Rings movies I did make, those were the very best films I could make, given the circumstances and everything else. I poured my heart and soul into those films. I just felt like I’d given everything I could to Lord of the Rings, and now with The Hobbit I’d have to go there again and now I’d be competing against myself. How did I shoot Hobbiton the first time around? How did shoot Gandalf coming in through the door? Now I’d have to look back at what I did the first time and do something different, on and on and on ... I thought that the best thing for the project and the fans and Tolkien and for everything else was to find another filmmaker who would do a really great job.