A tough ‘Hobbit’ to start

Jackson has other plans before turning to 'Rings' prequel

MGM’s recent announcement that it intended to release “The Hobbit” and, hopefully, get Peter Jackson to direct it, caused major buzz in Hollywood.

It also caused a frenzy among Jackson fans, who have been lobbying via petition on the fansite TheOneRing.net for Jackson to tackle the “Lord of the Rings” prequel ASAP. The petition tallied nearly 50,000 signatures and was submitted to MGM and New Line, which share film rights to “The Hobbit.” (MGM owns distribution rights; New Line owns the rights to actually make the movie.)

Reflecting just how important Jackson’s online fan base was to the success of the “LOTR” pics, MGM chief operating officer Rick Sands responded to the petition, saying: “MGM would be thrilled to collaborate with the Academy-Award winning director on this MGM/New Line Cinema production. And, I’m sure to the delight of the 50,000 filmgoers who have petitioned us in recent weeks, demanding we bring this film to fruition, we have had a few initial conversations about the project with Mr. Jackson’s representatives.”

Ken Kamins, who manages Jackson, would not comment on the matter. But people close to Jackson say it’s not likely the director will turn to “The Hobbit” anytime soon — at least not until the lawsuit between Jackson and New Line over “Lord of the Rings” revenues is settled.

Jackson’s suit claims he’s still owed money from the trilogy, including revenues from distribution deals abroad. Sorting through the various overseas deals and payments is a complex matter, however, and no damage amount is specified.

But considering the “LOTR” trilogy grossed close to $3 billion worldwide in ticket sales alone, shouldn’t New Line be working a little harder to make peace with Jackson? After all, Time Warner stockholders would no doubt be tickled to hear that an “LOTR”-type film was in the works, with the potential for LOTR-type grosses.

In the meantime, Jackson is busy with a number of other projects. He’s working on the script for “The Lovely Bones,” based on the novel by Alice Sebold, which will be his next directing gig. He’s also exec producing Universal’s “Halo” and producing U’s “Dambusters,” and just acquired rights to a trilogy of fantasy novels by Naomi Novik about a Napoleon-era ship’s captain and a heroic dragon named Temeraire. The multi-hyphenate is also launching a videogame studio with Microsoft.

Frodo fans will just have to sit tight.

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