The writing team behind The Lord Of The Rings film trilogy are to collaborate with Guillermo Del Toro on two films based on The Hobbit, it has been confirmed.

Peter Jackson - who directed the hugely successful Tolkien adaptations - as well as his partner Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens will script the two movies with Hellboy II helmer del Toro, a statement from New Line studios revealed.

While Jackson signed on as an executive producer for the upcoming Hobbit films - having resolved a longstanding legal dispute with New Line - it was thought scheduling conflicts would prevent him from adapting Tolkien's prose.

But according to the Hollywood Reporter, a gap in the New Zealander's schedule, coupled with a realisation of his, Walsh's and Boyens' passion for Tolkien's work, convinced the trio to return to Middle Earth with del Toro.

Production on the films - which will be shot back-to-back - is tentatively scheduled to start in late 2009, with the first film released in 2011 and its sequel the following year.

The Hobbit, published in 1937, tells of Bilbo Baggins' journey from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain in the company of Gandalf and 13 dwarves to recover lost treasure guarded by the dragon Smaug.

Though the book is relatively slight in comparison with the trilogy of books regarding the fate of the One Ring, it is believed the first film will be a straight adaptation of The Hobbit with the second detailing the years that pass between Bilbo's return from the Lonely Mountain and his eleventy-first birthday party at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Sir Ian McKellen is to return as Gandalf while Andy Serkis will reprise his role as Gollum, it has been revealed.

20/08/2008 08:50:11