Peter Jackson and the production team behind the "Lord of the Rings" legacy have tapped Guillermo del Toro to direct "The Hobbit" and its sequel, "The Hobbit 2."
The first film based on J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved book of the same name was confirmed by Jackson and Fran Walsh, executive producers of the films, as well as New Line Cinema's Toby Emmerich and Mary Parent, chairperson of MGM.
"We have long admired Guillermo's work and cannot think of a more inspired filmmaker to take the journey back to Middle-earth," Walsh and Jackson said in a statement. "We are delighted 'The Hobbit' is in such trustworthy hands."
As part of the deal, Del Toro will relocate to New Zealand for the next four years to work with Jackson and his production teams at Wingnut and WETA. He will direct the films back to back telling the story of "The Hobbit," and its sequel, which will deal with the 60-year period between "The Hobbit" and "The Fellowship of the Ring," the first book in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Del Toro, who has a long list of fantasy films under his belt including the haunting "Pan's Labyrinth," "Hellboy" and "Blade 2," said contributing to the "Rings" legacy was "an absolute dream come true."
New Line, which produced the "Rings" trilogy, will oversee and manage production of the two films. The project will be co-financed by New Line and MGM. The studio declined to confirm official release dates but word inside the studio is a 2011 release for "The Hobbit" and 2012 for the sequel.
This summer Del Toro's film "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army" hits theaters in July.
The Oscar-winning, critically acclaimed "Rings" trilogy grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide at the box office. The receipts from those profits were long a matter of dispute between Jackson and New Line, which eventually put aside their differences in December.