Five months after Guillermo del Toro abandoned the director's chair on "The Hobbit," following years of production delays, , the adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved fantasy novel has reportedly been green-lit.
TheWrap.com, citing an unnamed source close to the project, reports that MGM and Warner Bros. have given the go-ahead for "The Hobbit" to begin production in February. Peter Jackson has already stepped in to direct the two-part series.
A rep for Warners' New Line Cinema had yet to return MTV News' request for comment as of press time.
The latest development comes after years of setbacks. MGM has been waging a very public struggle with financial issues, forcing the studio to join forces with Warner to get the production off the ground. The first film is expected to hit theaters on December 19, 2012, with the second arriving in 2013. While financing is now in place — the Wrap put the budget of the two films at $400 million — labor issues surrounding the New Zealand production remain unresolved, with Screen Actors Guild negotiations still under way.
Word leaked in June that Jackson was in negotiations to take on directing duties following del Toro's departure. Jackson, who directed the three "Lord of the Rings" pictures, is also a producer and co-writer of "The Hobbit."
There is still no confirmation about who will play Bilbo Baggins, the central character, though widespread rumors suggest Martin Freeman (U.K. version of "The Office") remains the front-runner. Sources close to the production have previously confirmed to MTV News that Freeman was indeed del Toro's top pick to play the part.
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