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The Lord of the Rings Lawsuit Continues

Halting The Hobbits : The Lord of the Rings Lawsuit Contines
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The son of JRR Tolkien will try next week to halt Hollywood plans to follow the critical and commercial triumph of the Lord of the Rings trilogy by filming The Hobbit and a sequel, The Times reports.

Christopher Tolkien, 83, is calling for "one last crusade" in a long-running court battle against the producers of The Lord of the Rings only weeks before carpenters are due to begin work in New Zealand on the sets for the latest Middle-earth epic.

He claims the Tolkien family is owed £80m by New Line Cinema under a deal for a 7.5% share of profits that was signed in 1969, when his father reluctantly sold film rights to pay a tax bill.

Today the film-makers will confirm that Sir Ian McKellen is returning to his role as the wizard Gandalf in The Hobbit and that Andy Serkis will reprise his role as the murderous creature Gollum.

Sir Ian Holm, who played the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings, is expected to narrate. Viggo Mortensen has unexpectedly been asked to return as Aragorn, a character who does not appear in the original Hobbit story, published in 1937.

Peter Jackson, who directed the Rings trilogy, is to produce the Hobbit films. The director will be Guillermo del Toro, the Mexican whose grim fantasy Pan's Labyrinth won three Oscars last year.

However, at a hearing on June 6 Christopher Tolkien will ask a Californian judge to back his claim that he can "terminate" film rights to The Hobbit. He is said to be furious with the New Line studio, which earned £3 billion from the Rings trilogy. Tolkien's lawyers accuse New Line of "accounting chicanery". Warner Bros, owner of New Line, declined to comment.

In an internet press conference last night, Jackson and del Toro answered questions about the new films, which will cost about £150m to make over the next three years.

The first will be rooted firmly in the original book The Hobbit, following the naive young Bilbo on a quest for dragon's gold and showing how he obtained his all-powerful ring. The second will cover the 50 years between his return home and the events of The Lord of the Rings.

That period is described in The Silmarillion, a collection of notes and tales assembled by Christopher Tolkien and published four years after his father's death in 1973.

Tolkien Jr, described by his biographer as "cantankerous", is unlikely to allow the film-makers free access to The Silmarillion. He has always been sceptical of Hollywood. Even now relatives are unsure whether he has watched The Lord of the Rings, which won a total of 17 Oscars.

ENDS

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