The latest on Peter Jackson vs New Line

Sharon Waxman of The New York Times reports the latest on the ongoing dispute between Peter Jackson and New Line over the possible remake of The Hobbit:

In February 2005 Mr. Jackson sued New Line, saying he was owed money from the trilogy. Mr. Jackson has said he sued over profits from “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” after he was unable to get New Line to submit to an independent audit of its books. The lawsuit, which was unsuccessfully mediated, still has no court date, and so far no audit has taken place. New Line executives have complained that Mr. Jackson has become vastly wealthy from the Tolkien trilogy and is unjustifiably portraying himself as a victim.

In his letter Mr. Jackson said New Line was holding the new movie hostage to his lawsuit, saying that Michael Lynne, the New Line co-president, told Mr. Jackson’s manager, Ken Kamins, “that the way to settle the lawsuit was to get a commitment from us to make the Hobbit, because ‘that’s how these things are done.’ ”

Mr. Jackson added: “Michael Lynne said we would stand to make much more money if we tied the lawsuit and the movie deal together and this may well be true, but it’s still the worst reason in the world to agree to make a film.”

Neither Mr. Jackson nor the studio would comment publicly on the lawsuit.

And she includes a detail that I hadn’t heard before:

The final straw in continuing tensions between the two sides came earlier this month, when Mr. Jackson declined to contribute a video salute to New Line for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of its founding, planned for next year, according to two people familiar with the matter. Days later a New Line executive called Mr. Kamins to say that the studio would be seeking another director for “The Hobbit.”

So while New Line accused Mr. Jackson of trying to negotiate the lawsuit through the Internet, Mr. Jackson’s camp accused the studio of brinksmanship in a fit of pique.

It was left to another studio entirely, MGM, which owns the distribution rights to “The Hobbit,” to step in and calm the raging waters — and the Web sites.

“We expect to partner with New Line in financing ‘The Hobbit,’ ” a spokesman for MGM said. “We support Peter Jackson as a filmmaker, and believe that when the dust settles, he’ll be making the movie. We can’t imagine any other result.”

Perhaps all concerned will have to settle their differences if the film is to be made. We shall see.

> The first official fansite for The Hobbit
> Another site tracking the new of the film
> The letter from Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh to The OneRing fansite