'The Hobbit' Could Be Helmed By Fan Favorite Guillermo Del Toro

'Pan's Labyrinth,' 'Hellboy' director is reportedly in talks to direct the two 'Lord of the Rings' prequels.

The tale of Hollywood's struggle to bring the "The Hobbit" to the silver screen is nearly as epic as the "Lord of the Rings" movies themselves. Now — following on the heels of lawsuits, wars between directors and studio heads, rights issues and everything short of Gollum himself running off with the script — comes big news that red-hot filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro could possibly take the reigns.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the "Pan's Labyrinth" master storyteller is in talks to helm the two back-to-back movie adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Hobbit," which would serve as de facto prequels for the most successful motion picture trilogy of all time. With a $3 billion franchise on the line and "LOTR" mastermind Peter Jackson planning to return only as a producer, rumors of the past few months have focused on talents like "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi. But with loyal fans ready to pounce on any name that doesn't satisfy them, New Line Cinema and MGM appear to be wisely courting a geek favorite.

Del Toro has spent two decades flirting with Hollywood on his own terms. The Mexican-born, Oscar-nominated director has made his share of mainstream films ("Hellboy," "Blade II," "Mimic"), and has proudly bucked the system while returning to his Spanish-language roots ("Labyrinth," "The Devil's Backbone"), but he has yet to know the astronomical success of an "LOTR"-type film. The themes that have fueled his work thus far — fantasy, eccentric monsters, underdogs with big hearts — would certainly seem an ideal fit for "The Hobbit."

Originally published in 1937, "The Hobbit" focuses on Bilbo Baggins (portrayed by Ian Holm in the Jackson films) as he joins a fellowship of dwarves setting out with Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan in "LOTR") to find the treasure of a massive dragon named Smaug. Jackson and the studios have made it clear that they plan to split the novel's story into two films, so they can more accurately capture all the complexities of the Tolkien source material.

Although some of their characters appear in "Hobbit" for only the briefest of mentions (if at all), "LOTR" veterans such as Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood have all expressed interest to MTV News in returning to Middle-earth if the scripts include them. (We have our .)

Del Toro has most recently been in Budapest, filming his fantasy-fueled sequel "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," which is due in theaters July 11. The in-demand filmmaker already has such films as "At the Mountains of Madness," "3993," "The Witches" and an update of "Tarzan" in various states of pre-production, and has even been lobbying to take over the Harry Potter franchise. With the "Hobbit" screenplays still unwritten, and expected to remain that way until the ongoing writers' strike concludes, it is expected that Del Toro could squeeze in one or two of those projects before he starts hanging out in Middle-earth.

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