Week in Review: Del Toro gets 'Hobbit'


One is lost
Wanted: Director. Must like werewolves, $100 million budgets. In a remarkably composed statement Tuesday, Universal thanked Mark Romanek for helping "bring one of its most cherished legacies to renewed life," this despite the fact that the helmer had just walked away from the studio's "Wolfman" after failing to get the $100 million budget upped. Stars Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins are still on board, but with a March start date looming, the search for a new helmer is understandably in overdrive.

One is found
Those were cries of joy emanating from the Comic-Con set Monday as Guillermo del Toro, the man behind "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Hellboy," was revealed as Peter Jackson's handpicked helmer for the two-film adaptation of "Lord of the Rings" prequel "The Hobbit." While some diehard franchise fans won't be happy with anyone but Jackson, there's little argument that del Toro's fantasy creds are impeccable. The hiring comes barely a month after Jackson and "Hobbit" co-producers New Line kissed and made up after a public battle over "Rings" royalties. The two filmmakers will work hand-in-hand overseeing the J.R.R. Tolkien novel's adaptation.

Waiting game
Avi Lerner is not happy. The producer, who, like most, has a number of projects stalled by the writers strike, called out the WGA this week, demanding to know why his Nu Image/ Millenium has yet to secure a waiver agreement while partners like the Weinstein Co. and Lions-gate have. "(The studios) can wait another 10 years, but I'm talking about surviving," Lerner said after being told to try back in a few weeks. An outspoken critic of the strike, Lerner's convinced his stance has made him a target. "But it's still discrimination," he says. The WGA said that "no decision on anything" has been made at this point.

Notes from Vegas
Marie Osmond is back. Or will be soon. The '70s icon is teaming with Program Partners for a daytime strip targeted for fall 2009. Osmond told NATPE attendees she'll share from her own personal experience -- from her house burning down to postpartum depression to divorce to being a single, working mom with eight kids. "It will be a real feel-good show," she said. ... Meanwhile, Sam Raimi, who made "Xena" a household word before tackling the "Spider-Man" features, is bringing the concept of the hourlong fantasy/ action show back to syndication, announcing plans to executive produce a weekly show based on Terry Goodkind's "The Sword of Truth" books.

Gettin' freaky
"No Country for Old Men" gained some momentum in the Oscar race this week as its cast earned the nod at the 14th annual SAG Awards -- a possible harbinger of the Academy's vote-rich actors block -- and helmers Joel and Ethan Coen took the podium at the DGA nods. "We did a freaky little movie," co-star Josh Brolin said in accepting the SAG nod, "whether you like the ending or not."

When moguls collide
Simmering tension between John Malone and Barry Diller over Liberty Media's sizable stake in Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp. boiled over this week as Malone's Liberty filed a legal action in an attempt to take a majority of board seats and oust Diller from the company he founded. The move, dubbed "preposterous" by IAC, stems from Diller's plan to split IAC into five separate companies.

No butts about it
Let me get this straight. It was OK to show us Dennis Franz's backside but this is wrong? Hard to believe, but 14 years after its debut and two after its last episode, "NYPD Blue" is still fighting the man. ABC has said it will contest a proposed $1.43 million fine levied by the FCC for a 2003 episode in which a woman's buttocks were shown. The network argues that show's adult nature had been well-established after a decade on the air.

End credits
Julia Roberts will play a divorcee who trades her Manhattan life for adventure in "Hothouse Flowers," which she will also produce. ... Channing Tatum is trading in his "Pink-ville" uniform for some fantasy soldiering as Duke in Paramount's "G.I. Joe." ... Robert Redford and Barry Levinson are lacing up their boots for "A Walk in the Woods," an adaptation of Bill Bryson's best-selling travelogue. ... Aussie newcomer Anna Torv has landed the lead in J.J. Abrams' Fox sci-fi drama "Fringe."