Guillermo Del Toro recently announced that he’s stepping down as director of the two Hobbit movies, due to delays in production caused mostly by financial troubles at co-distributor MGM. He will still co-write the screenplays and remains committed to making the Hobbit movies a success.

“In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming The Hobbit, I am faced with the hardest decision of my life,” says Guillermo. “After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures.I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand.”

“We feel very sad to see Guillermo leave the Hobbit, but he has kept us fully in the loop and we understand how the protracted development time on these two films, due to reasons beyond anyone s control has compromised his commitment to other long term projects,” says Executive Producer Peter Jackson. “The bottom line is that Guillermo just didn’t feel he could commit six years to living in New Zealand, exclusively making these films, when his original commitment was for three years.”

Jackson will work with his studio partners to find a replacement for the Hobbit movies, which haven’t been officially greenlit but are currently penciled in for December 2012 and December 2013. Notably, Jackson did say he would direct the $150 million project himself if necessary to ensure the movie is filmed in his native New Zealand.

Source: The One Ring