Del Toro's move caught observers by surprise because the filmmaker had devoted so much time to work with Jackson drawing up plans for the movies, and working on the script with Jackson and Fran Walsh and Phillippa Boyens. He even moved his family to New Zealand. Casting was even in the early stages. 

But since his departure, Warner Bros. and New Line, which run point on the production over partner MGM, never did a full-on search for a director, even as some names surfaced as possible contenders. Why? Because Warners/New Line was saving most of its energy trying to woo Jackson back to Middle-earth.

Jackson had other commitments -- the director had been working on secret projects -- and wasn't sure he wanted to devote another chunk of his life to the tales of J.R.R. Tolkien. But because of the complicated nature and the advanced stage of the undertaking -- Middle-earth was being built from the ground up when del Toro left so unexpectedly -- it wasn't simply filling a chair with a warm body. To Warners/New Line, Jackson is the most logical choice not only because he made the "Lord of the Rings" movies but also because he was deeply involved with the "Hobbit" films. 

One issue facing Jackson, who also put years of effort into this project, was whether he was willing to see the adaptations be set back years, and possibly see his input lessened. Insiders say the next few days will be crucial in the negotiating process between Jackson's camp and the Warners/New Line side.

[via Hollywood Reporter]
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