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Del Toro to direct ‘Pacific Rim’

Helmer navigates through various projects after demise of Tolkien pic

UPDATE: It’s official: Legendary Pictures’ confirmed today that Guillermo del Toro will direct the monster movie “Pacific Rim.”

So what’s next for Guillermo del Toro? Or perhaps a more apt question for the master juggler is what’s not?

One thing’s for certain: Universal’s “At the Mountains of Madness” is officially dormant, as del Toro plans to spend his short-term future on Legendary Pictures’ monster movie “Pacific Rim,” which the helmer will direct for Legendary Pictures with principal photography starting in September.

“Pacific Rim” will be released during summer 2013 and will be produced by Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni for Legendary and by del Toro.

“We started developing Pac Rim a while ago with the mad passion and enthusiasm of a project unwatched and unchecked by politics or comparisons,” del Toro said in a statement released Wednesday. “We designed and shepherded the movie we want to make. We start shooting in September and we hit the ground running because we are so in sync. My partnership with Legendary represents, both in scale and creative demands, a huge step forward for me.”

But things get murkier in the longer view.

Del Toro’s ability to deliver on-budget films that appeal to both auds and crix alike make him one of Hollywood’s most sought-after names, whether as producer, director, writer or creative consultant. But with that demand comes multiple opportunities for distraction, and del Toro’s seen his share: After devoting many months to “The Hobbit” and many years personally developing “Madness,” he’s currently doing neither.

Though he has his hands on more than a dozen in-development projects, his last directing credit came back in 2008 with “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army,” which grossed more than $150 million worldwide.

After that success, Universal set up several projects with the helmer that included a remake of “Frankenstein” and an adaptation of “Drood,” based on the unfinished Charles Dickens novel “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

Though “Madness” was a long-gestating passion project of del Toro’s at U, the real fork in the road came with his decision to commit to writing and directing “The Hobbit,” the prequel to “The Lord of Rings” series that Peter Jackson would co-write and direct. Del Toro moved his family to New Zealand and planned to commit three years there before returning to his other projects.

But after spending almost two years in development, he eventually dropped out — due in large part to the ongoing delays getting the film greenlit by New Line and MGM.

He ran into a similar situation with “Madness,” which del Toro was prepared to move fast on once “The Hobbit” fell through.

Though James Cameron quickly came on to produce and Tom Cruise showed interest in starring, Universal execs were wary of the R rating, a matter on which the director wouldn’t compromise, insiders tell Variety. Even as del Toro finished script revisions and began scouting locations, U balked at greenlighting the project.

Several factors came into play, but one of the biggest was the $150 million budget on an R-rated film. Universal would need to make at least twice that amount at the box office to make its money back and was put in a spot — not that many R-rated horror films chart that high, and Cruise was only loosely attached. At the bottom line, the risks simply outweighed the rewards.

Almost three years removed from his last directing credit, del Toro is back at square one.

Besides those previous commitments at U, del Toro has also made commitments to a film based on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney and a retelling of “Pinocchio” for Pathe and the Jim Henson Co.

Insiders close to del Toro tell Variety that each of these projects is still in development. Some have completed scripts, others have just begun storyboarding — but none has been shelved.

Even “At the Mountains of Madness” has a glimmer of hope — del Toro’s camp is still having discussions with Universal on how to move forward. While nothing has been axed on del Toro slate yet, it’s hard to give a timetable on when any of these projects might get made given that the helmer has always waited till late in the post-production process of his current film to choose his next.

“Pacific Rim” looks to be that film, but given the slow process of the development world, it shouldn’t be hard for him to stay hands-on with each project as it comes along.

Del Toro is repped by WME and Exile Entertainment.

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