'Hobbit' duo to wield pen

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Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro's search for writers for "The Hobbit" and its companion film has ended, with the filmmakers deciding that no one is better suited for the task than they are.

Del Toro, who is directing the movies, will team with the "Lord of the Rings" filmmaker and "Hobbit" executive producer Jackson to adapt the J.R.R. Tolkien book and write its follow-up. Also joining them in the writers room are Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, both of whom collaborated with Jackson on the "Rings" trilogy.

The news caps an eight-month search for a scribe to tackle the coveted task of bringing the literary classic to the big screen. When Jackson and New Line resolved their differences over profit participation in the "Rings" films, Jackson said he would not be writing the "Hobbit" movies because of other commitments, though he does have approval over creative elements as exec producer.

When del Toro came aboard, the deal was that the two would oversee the search for scribes and the writing. In the interim, three factors came into play:

> The filmmakers saw their schedules open up.

> During the discussions about the films, they realized how much affection they had for the material.

> They also realized that in order to make the release dates, the process required people intimate with Tolkien's world of Middle Earth.

All led to the decision that they would do the honors themselves along with Walsh and Boyens.

"Hobbit," written by Tolkien years before the "Rings" trilogy, follows a young Bilbo Baggins, who finds his life turned upside down when the wizard Gandalf takes him on a journey for treasure that involves trolls, humans, Gollum and his ring of invisibility and a dragon named Smaug.

The films will be shot simultaneously, with principal photography tentatively set for a late-2009 start. New Line and MGM hope to release "Hobbit" in 2011 and its sequel the following year. (partialdiff)
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