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Ian Holm, Lord of the Rings

New Line Cinema

Peter Jackson just can't kick his Hobbit habit.

After a fruitless eight-month search for the perfect scribe, the Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings overlord and his hand-picked Hobbit helmer Guillermo Del Toro have decided they're the best men for the job of adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth prequel into two films.

The duo will get a big assist from Jackson's fellow LOTR Best Screenplay winners, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.

Jackson and del Toro took over the writing chores after both of their schedules opened up. Because of their shared love and familiarity with the material, both agreed to pen the project rather than having a hired gun take a stab at it.

After settling a bigger lawsuit over LOTR profits, Jackson came aboard as an executive producer overseeing production on two features based on The Hobbit and other Tolken writngs.

In April, he tapped del Toro (Pan's Labrynth, the Hell Boy films) to take over the directing chair. Del Toro is moving to New Zealand for five years to shoot both Hobbit movies back-to-back.

The first installment will follow a young Bilbo Baggins on a quest to find a treasure guarded by the evil dragon Smaug with the assistance of an itinerant wizard Gandalf and a party of 13 dwarves. The second installment will use storylines Tolkien suggested in The Hobbit that set up events in The Lord of the Rings and will take place during the 60 years between the two books.

Del Toro has also been in touch with LOTR principals Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen and Andy Serkis about reprising their roles as Gandalf, Aragorn and Gollum, respectively. The filmmakers have also talked to Ian Holm, who played the older Bilbo in LOTR, but the 76-year-old actor's participation depends largely on his health. Should he not be able to play the titular character, del Toro has reportedly been mulling the possibility of having him narrate the tale.

Production on the two-parter is slated to begin in late 2009, with the first Hobbit movie hitting theaters in 2011 and the sequel in 2012.