What acclaimed, Oscar-nominated director does Peter Jackson have in his "pocketses"? It's no longer a great riddle worthy of those "tricksy hobbitses," with news Thursday (April 24) that "Hellboy" helmer Guillermo del Toro has signed on to direct two new features in J.R.R. Tolkien's expansive legendarium: "The Hobbit" and a yet-untitled sequel that will take place during the 60 years between the end of that book and the beginning of "The Lord of the Rings."
The announcement, first reported in Variety, comes after months of negotiations between Del Toro, Jackson and New Line Cinema. For his part, Del Toro has seemed positively giddy over the prospect of stepping into Jackson's shoes, telling MTV News this past weekend at New York Comic Con that he was eagerly awaiting an announcement so he could begin work on the adaptation.
According to the trade magazine, Del Toro will move to New Zealand for the next four years, where he will film the two flicks back-to-back while working closely with Jackson and his Wingnut and WETA Digital production teams.
He'll no doubt also be joined by many more familiar faces. Over the past year, nearly all the actors from the original trilogy, including Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood, have told MTV News of their wish to return to Middle-earth for a "Fellowship of the Rings" prequel. More recently, Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf, expressed his wish to reprise the role on his personal blog.
"The Hobbit" follows Bilbo Baggins in his quest to help a band of dwarves recapture a hoard of stolen treasure from the dragon Smaug. In the course of their many adventures, Bilbo stumbles upon the One Ring, a physical projection of the Lord Sauron's evil and manages to steal it from the unsuspecting Gollum.
The second film's focus is anyone's guess, as Tolkien himself wrote very little of the time between "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," save for some backstory in various appendices. It would most likely center on Aragorn, as he grows up among the elves, befriends Gandalf and begins his quest to protect the hobbits as a Ranger.
It is not known at this time whether Ian Holm, who played Bilbo in "LOTR," will return for these two sequels.
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