Peter Jackson clarifies Hobbit schedule and what he'll do

Peter Jackson, who is producing The Hobbit, confirmed to us that he and his partners will deliver a second version of the script by the end of the year, with production slated to begin sometime in 2010. The first of two envisioned films will come out "by the end of 2011," he added.

"We're still working on the script, and of course it's going to be directed by Guillermo [del Toro]," Jackson said in an exclusive interview with SCI FI Wire. "That's going really well, and in fact we've already delivered the first script to the studio, and they really liked it, so now we're working hard on the second script, and that's going to keep us pretty busy until the end of this year."

Jackson tapped del Toro, of Pan's Labyrinth fame, to direct the two-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings prequel, which Jackson is producing and co-writing along with his partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens for a New Line/Warner release. The budget is projected to be at least $250 million for the films, but Jackson says "it's too early" to comment on that.

"There's no budget yet, and no cast, but we plan to start shooting next year, with the first one coming out by the end of 2011, hopefully," Jackson said. "And while Guillermo's making The Hobbit, I'm not quite sure what I'll be working on, as I want to make completely sure that I'm doing what I need to do for The Hobbit, and that I'll be there to help Guillermo."

Jackson is well known as being a very hands-on filmmaker. So just how involved will he be during The Hobbit's shoot next year? "Well, I'm not intending to be on the set every day looking over his shoulder," he said with a laugh. "It's Guillermo's movie, and he'll be filming it, not me. The reason he's directing it is because I'm a big fan of his movies, and I know he'll do a fantastic job. I know he's the right guy for the project, and I love his amazing sense of visual and imagery. So I won't be interfering with his approach."

Del Toro is also collaborating with Jackson and his team on writing The Hobbit. "We're all on the same page [about the project], and it all starts with a good script," Jackson said. "We're big believers in structured screenplays, and the thing with our screenwriting partnership, with Fran and Philippa, is that we don't have a traditional screenplay deal with the studio. We don't have two drafts and a bunch of revisions. We refuse to put that into our contracts, as we continually rewrite and refine the scripts as we go."

If the Hobbit shoot goes smoothly, Jackson revealed, "I'm actually hoping to direct something myself at the same time. I've got a couple of smaller projects I'm considering, but I can't really talk about them yet, as I haven't even announced them to anyone yet."

Jackson's The Lovely Bones opens Jan. 15, 2010.

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