Peter Jackson backpedals, says he may direct “The Hobbit” Hours after Peter Jackson’s representatives said he will not direct “The Hobbit” now that Guillermo del Toro has exited the project, the Academy Award-winning director is backpedaling just enough for “Lord of the Rings” fans to keep their hopes up.

Speaking to the Dominion Post, Jackson said that while he’s actively searching for replacement directors, he admitted that hopping into the director’s chair would be a possibility.

“If that’s what I have to do to protect Warner Bros’ investment, then obviously that’s one angle which I’ll explore,” Jackson said.

He did add, however, that he is under contract for two new films already, and that the rival studios “may not let me out of the contracts.”

But we know that’s bogus. Contracts are shattered all of the time. Just ask original “Hobbit” director del Toro. Wasn’t he under a contract?

Plus, the “Rings” realm, which includes the world of “The Hobbit,” is Jackson’s domain. And if he isn’t going to direct, the only other filmmaker we can imagine filling his shoes would have been del Toro. Now that he has moved on, the pieces are in place for Jackson to triumphantly return to Middle Earth and turn “The Hobbit” into the blockbuster fans crave.

It helps that Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones” didn’t exactly connect with audiences in the ways he likely hoped. Perhaps after exploring non-“Rings” material, Jackson and his team will be ready to return to New Zealand and dive back into J.R.R. Tolkien’s tomes.

Jackson reportedly will be meeting with studio officials to discuss replacements this week. Expect an announcement sometime soon. My money is on Jackson returning to the franchise for another trip through Hobbit town.

About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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