Ian McKellen, Guillermo del Toro

New Line Cinema, Lester Cohen/WireImage.com

The two movies based on the Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit, may be a long ways off—hang on until 2011 and 2012, nerds!—but they're pretty much all Mexican director Guillermo del Toro gets to talk about these days. Sure, he's out promoting this summer's comic book flick Hellboy II: The Golden Army, but, like, what's up with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf and that dragon?

We got the big scoop from del Toro himself at the Saturn Awards, where he received a lifetime achievement award. Here's what he told us about The Hobbit's casting, creatures and story:

First of all, expect some crazy new creatures. If you've seen Hellboy or his epic Pan's Labyrinth, you know del Toro would go beyond Orcs and talking trees. He promises to respect J.R.R. Tolkien's and Peter Jackson's creations, but sees many more new ones. "I plan to bring myself to The Hobbit," he said. "No doubt about that."

So what's he working on? Well, you know those creepily talented kids who sit alone in the corner drawing in notebooks? That's del Toro. He sketches all his magical beings in personal notebooks, but now the studio wants to own his ideas. So until all the paperwork is done, "it will be sketched on napkins, or it'll be sketched on loose pieces of paper."

And even though The Hobbit was Tolkien's tot-sized adventure, the film version will not be The Lord of the Rings for Kids. "Tolkien had, in the last third of the book—I wouldn't say an edge, but had a somber tone that normally would not conjure the term 'family.'"

And what about the cast? Who's gonna be the next Viggo Mortensen? Well, Gandalf is already locked up, as Ian McKellen has agreed to pick up his wizard's staff again. But the rest of the roles are wide open, despite what you hear about James McAvoy or anyone else.

"We'll cast whoever seems to fit the pages," del Toro said. Wannabe Hobbits may have to chase him down to New Zealand, though, where he'll be spending much of the rest of the year, checking in with the creature designs and the Middle Earth set.

"For me," he said, "it's like commuting to Burbank."

Get Hellboy II: The Golden Army trailers, clips and more in the Summer Movie Guide

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