It appears that several sites are breaking the news simultaneously, but really, it's something we've all just been waiting to hear now for a while anyway:  Peter Jackson will direct "The Hobbit."

It's not official, no, but even when the news first broke about Guillermo Del Toro leaving the project so he could return to the States and get back to work on his own films, my first thought was that Peter would probably end up making the films.

I've been a fan of Jackson's work since the days of "Dead Alive," and when I say that he sort of needs to make "The Hobbit," I'm not running him down.  It's just that he came off of "Return Of The King" one of the most powerful filmmakers in town.  The perception was that he was invulnerable, the new King of the Geeks.  He went directly into his dream project, "King Kong," and while I still think Kong is one of the few truly great digital characters ever created, and there is a lot of good in that film, it was messy.  Messy enough that it started to dent his reputation.  And again... I liked "The Lovely Bones," but there's no denying that the film hurt Peter.  Critically dented, commercially dented, the Peter Jackson of right this minute is not the Peter Jackson from Oscar Night 2004, arms full of acclaim, that you see in the photo attached to this story.  At that point, moving on from Middle Earth seemed as natural a decision as he could possibly make.

Now?  Now I'm guessing that trip back to Middle Earth might shore up Peter's commercial clout a bit, might remind the mainstream just how much they loved "Lord Of The Rings," and it would guarantee that no one ruins the legacy that Peter established with the trilogy.

I mean... can you imagine if you're PJ and you're hearing some of the names come up that have surfaced in connection with "The Hobbit" since Guillermo left the film?  The first time someone said "Brett Ratner" around me, I would kick them in the sternum hard enough to crack it and sign the contracts to make the films myself.  There's been a lot of energy spent denying that Peter would even be available, but I have tried to just wait those rumors out rather than report every single one because I had a feeling we'd end up right here anyway.

Right now, I see the story evolving on Deadline New York and over at Borys Kit's Heat Vision Blog, and I see a whole lot of sites jumping on to repeat the news.  I've got some e-mails out to see what I can shake loose, but I'm also on my way out the door to shoot some interviews for "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" this afternoon, so I won't be updating the story until later today.

My guess is this will come together quickly, and that momentum will help shake loose some sort of closure on the money issues that plague MGM.  These are films that have to get made, financially speaking, and it sounds like measures are being taken to guarantee the quality is there as well.

More as the story develops.

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