Middle-earthers rejoice: Settlement smooths way for Hobbit movies
A settlement has been reached in the legal tussle between the heirs of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema over participation in the fabulously profitable “Lord of the Rings” movies, reports the L.A. Times. That means Guillermo del Toro can get on with his adaptation of The Hobbit, the children’s book that precedes the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
The Tolkien Trust, a charity in control of the writer’s estate, joined with HarperCollins last year in suing New Line, which produced the three “LOTR” films directed by New Zealond auteur Peter Jackson. Released in 2001 (The Fellowship of the Ring), 2002 (The Two Towers) and 2003 (The Return of the King), Jackson’s series earned close to $3 billion worldwide at the box office and another $3 billion in DVD and other merchandising sales.
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but the Tolkien Trust and HarperCollins sought “in excess” of $150 million in the suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming New Line had failed to pay “a contractually agreed 7.5 percent of gross profits for the three films based on The Lord of the Rings novels.”
“The trustees regret that legal action was necessary,” said Christopher Tolkien, youngest son of the author, “but are glad that this dispute has been settled on satisfactory terms that will allow the Tolkien Trust properly to pursue its charitable objectives.”
New Line, now a division of Warner Bros., can go forward with the production of two movies based on The Hobbit. The suit, scheduled for trial Oct. 19, sought to terminate New Lines rights to Tolkien material until the issue was resolved, bringing production to a halt.
Del Toro, director of the “Hellboy” movies and the Oscar-winning Spanish-language fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth, is set to begin filming next year in New Zealand from a script by Jackson and his writing partners, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, who also wrote the “LOTR” adaptations.
“We are pleased to put this litigation behind us,” said Warner Bros. President Alan Horn. “We all look foward to a mutually productive and beneficial relationship in the future.”
This was not the first suit against New Line over “LOTR” profits. Jackson sued in 2005, claiming he had been underpaid by as much as $100 million in profit participation. Producer Saul Zaentz sued twice. Those actions were settled, apparently to everyone’s satisfaction, given Jackson’s role in the “Hobbit” productions.
The Tolkien Trust attorney, Bonnie Eskanzi, told the L.A. Times a “significant portion” of the settlement will go to the London-based Tolkien Trust, which distributes money to charities such as Save the Children and UNICEF.
“The beneficiaries of this settlement will be needy people literally all over the world,” Eskenazi said.
Yeah, yeah, great. But the really important news is that we will –at last!– get another visit or two to Middle-Earth as envisioned by Jackson, who is producing the Del Toro adaptations. His LOTR adaptations are rightly viewed as one of the best book-to-movie projects in film history.
Rumored to be coming back are principle actors Ian McKellan (Gandalf the wizard), Hugo Weaving (Elrond the elf chieftan) and Any Serkis (Gollum).