In all the feuding over “The Hobbit”, the one wild card has now spoken out about the issue. Saul Zaentz, the millionaire “Amadeus” and “The English Patient” producer who owns the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, has gone on the record with enthusiastic support of director Peter Jackson.”It will definitely be shot by Peter Jackson. … Next year The Hobbit rights will fall back to my company. I suppose that Peter will wait because he knows that he will make the best deal with us” said Zaentz to German site Elbenwald.de via Showbiz Data.

The whole quarrel right now is over outstanding money owed to Jackson by New Line for his work on the first film of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Jackson wants to direct at least one of the two prequel “Hobbit” films planned, but won’t do it until the issue is resolved. Both a large cadre of fans and MGM, the studio who owns the distribution rights to “The Hobbit”, also want him to do it.Only New Line, who holds the production rights at present, isn’t keen on the idea because it would require them settling their lawsuit quite soon – a movie that would put them millions out of pocket. The studio is opting to go with a new director and production team as they have to get into production on the film by next year or the rights will revert back to Zaentz.

Zaentz is perfectly happy with that idea it seems, it would allow him and Jackson to proceed without any studio interference – “He [Jackson] is fed up with the studios: to get his profit share on the Rings Trilogy he had to sue New Line. With us, in contrast, he knows that he will be paid fairly and artistically supported without reservation”.Right now though how this plays out is fascinating to watch. All sides are using media outlets to their advantage in this fight, and both the newly-reformed MGM and Zaentz have proven they’re not afraid to go at it tooth and claw. Yet right now the ball is in New Line’s court, whatever they do next will determine the outcome.

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