Riddle in the Dark: Seven Directors Who Could Take Over ‘The Hobbit’

By  · Published on June 7th, 2010

by Jim Rohner

As I’m sure we all know by now, fan favorite director Guillermo del Toro has vacated the position as director of The Hobbit. For months, fanboys have been pitching veritable tents over the prospect of Peter Jackson and del Toro combining to bring Tolkein’s novel to life only to let out a collective Wilhelm Scream when del Toro left roughly a week ago. Whether it’s because the visionary Mexican director was tired of the delays due to the sinking MGM ship or because he was fired after boldly (and correctly) refusing to shoot the film in 3D, the fact still remains that the director’s chair is now empty. Jackson insists that the film is still moving forward so the lingering question remains: who will fill the large shoes (and larger pants) of the hobbit-esque filmmaker?

We at Film School Rejects think we’re pretty smart, so we’ve devised a list of directors we think would be adequate fits to take over the reins of what is unquestionably one of the most anticipated films of the last decade. Directors that we love but who are currently wrapped up in other projects (Christopher Nolan, Joss Whedon) have been excluded. In no particular order, here’s a list of 7 directors we wouldn’t mind replacing Guillermo del Toro now that he’s hopefully moved onto greener pastures (and hopefully, an “At the Mountains of Madness” adaptation):

1. Alfonso Cuaron

Another visionary Mexican director, Cuaron has proven more than capable of directing movies that appeal to youth (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), adults (Y Tu Mama Tambien) and critics (those plus Children of Men) while maintaining an impressive visual style and emotional intimacy with the film’s characters. Cuaron proved with Prisoner of Azkaban that he could work within the confines of a studio production and add an individual touch that Chris Columbus lacked with the first two Harry Potter installments while still faithfully serving the much beloved novel upon which it was based. Being good friends with Guillermo del Toro, just a word to Peter Jackson from the former slated director could move Cuaron’s name to the top of the list for consideration. However, because of his extensive and frequent producing work, Cuaron may be picky with the projects he chooses and has shown no indication that he works quickly. Additionally, while Azkaban may have been a big-budget film, it still had a relatively focused and focused emotional scope and he may not be suitable for a film that would feature such an epic scene as the Battle of the Five Armies.

2. Sam Raimi

Similar to Guillermo del Toro, there was a lot of speculation over what Raimi’s project would be when Sony decided to interfere in the affairs of the guy who, when unhindered, gave us and them Spider-Man 2. Raimi, like Cuaron, showed no hesitation in making the transition from indie films to the world of Hollywood studio pictures and has shown that he can do justice to a beloved and historic character from another medium. He’s got a signature style that is fun without being distracting and can appease both critics and audiences. However, that same signature style, which seamlessly blends tongue-in-cheek humor into a film’s plot, may make him incompatible for an otherwise serious and epic fantasy. Inserting humor into a story about an insecure teenager suddenly inheriting super powers is one thing; inserting it into a story about a midget who likes to smoke and accidentally stumbles upon his world’s greatest weapon is another (on second thought, maybe it isn’t). Also, there’s that little snag called Warcraft, currently in pre-production, which I admit I had forgotten about upon writing this blog.

3. Neil Blomkamp

Blomkamp took the world by storm when his feature-film debut, District 9, was released last August to great critical and box-office success. A veteran in the world of visual effects, Blomkamp showed a fantastic balance between pulse-pounding action and emotional engagement with his characters. Blomkamp is in good graces with Peter Jackson, who produced District 9 after the plans for a Halo movie fell through, after taking a sparse $30 million budget and turning it into a film that looks like it could’ve cost at least 5 times that much. Think about that for a minute – District 9 only cost $30 million dollars! Romantic comedies don’t even cost that little these days. In fact, The Killers, the surefire bomb starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher, cost $75 million to produce. MGM, which is mired in financial troubles, would be well-served by employing Blomkamp’s low-budget expertise. While District 9 came out of left field to surprise audiences worldwide, there is an incredible amount of anticipation and expectations for The Hobbit and the writer/director who was able to slip under the radar would be thrust into a bright spotlight if he took the job, with every move he would make potentially being publicized and scrutinized.

4. Marc Forster

The German-born director is currently filming Machine Gun Preacher and is speculatively attached to about 5 different films as director at the moment – including the “is it or isn’t it happening?” World War Z – but all of that could change if offered the chance to direct an adaptation of one of the most beloved books of all time. Despite somewhat mixed reviews, Forster was able to turn quite a hefty profit for Quantum of Solace, which is both an action flick and an installment in a legendary film series, and which probably endeared him to the folks at MGM, who produced it. He may not be the greatest action director in the world, but The Hobbit is a fantasy adventure first and foremost and Forster’s work on both Finding Neverland and Stranger Than Fiction proved that he can expertly weave fantastical elements into his films. His upcoming film slate, however, may prove to be too demanding and Forster hasn’t shied away from turning down high-profile projects before (Brokeback Mountain, the aforementioned Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

5. Martin Campbell

Admittedly not the first guy you’d think of to replace Guillermo del Toro (or for anything else), Campbell has an affinity for brands and franchises, becoming the first director since John Glen to direct more than one James Bond film with GoldenEye and Casino Royale, both of which are hailed for being two of the best installments in and for re-invigorating their series. Casino Royale, like Quantum of Solace for Marc Forster, may have positioned Martin Campbell in the forefront of the MGM execs’ brains and the status of the 3 projects he’s linked to as director on IMDB Pro aren’t anywhere near ready to go into production. His hiring as director on Green Lantern will be a big litmus test to see how he can handle a film with franchise potential adapted from another medium. On the other hand, Green Lantern is far from complete and very little is known about it. Additionally, some of Campbell’s other films – The Legend of Zorro, Vertical Limit, Edge of Darkness – are painfully mediocre at best.

6. Kathryn Bigelow

Alright, alright, I’ll admit that this pick really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (if any) and I really only put her on the list due to the unshakable question of “what if” that has been swirling around my brain since I first thought of it as a joke. Bigelow tends to stick to low-budget, intense independent material (The Hurt Locker, Near Dark) and with the exception of Point Break, her films don’t make any money (K-19: The Widowmaker, anyone?). There’s really no indication that she has the ability or the desire to direct what is essentially the quintessential studio picture, but while John and Jane Doe may not have seen The Hurt Locker, after its multiple Oscar wins and inescapable buzz around it I guarantee that they now at least have heard about it and will be curious about a film “From the director of The Hurt Locker.” Peter Jackson would be a great mentor should she need help navigating the big-budget minefield and The Hobbit’s guaranteed box-office success would help raise her profile as a bankable director. She was also married to James Cameron, so she had to have picked up something about blockbusters by osmosis and I think it would be incredibly intriguing to see such a male-dominated story interpreted through a female’s eyes a la Mary Harron with American Psycho.

7. Peter Jackson

Jackson is the most obvious choice and the odds that he’ll be chosen as director are heavily in his favor. He’s already stated that he’ll step behind the camera if it’ll help expedite the process and seeing as he’s already producing and co-writing, and worked on the Lord of the Rings trilogy for years and years, there’s nobody that knows the material better and would be more suited to take over. As the producer/director/writer of the Lord of the Rings, Jackson brought in a Shireful of cash and Oscars for New Line and you better believe that the company behind Gone With the Wind, Ben-Hur and Network would love the potential return to glory. To be honest, I’m kind of surprised that the decision hasn’t already been made – it seems as natural a fit as hobbits and pipe weed.

Honorable Mentions

Which of the above-listed directors makes the most sense to you? Can you think of a director who would be a better fit?

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