(3) So, just how big a deal is this for New Zealand? Well, the first hint I got of it was when I read that when the studio executives flew down to N. Z. , they met with the Prime Minister. That's right: the country's leader made time in his busy schedule for a series of meetings with the film people. In the course of which he brokered a deal which, I learn from skimming the posts on Kristen Thompson's always excellent website, http://www.frodofranchise.com/blog/, immediately led to the New Zealand parliament's fast-tracking legislation to make that deal fully legal. That's right; they didn't just given them big tax breaks (though they did that too): they changed the law so as to keep Peter Jackson happy. There was even some mention elsewhere of the exchange rate for the New Zealand doller fluctuating according to the latest news re. the films and whether they'd be made there. Now that's a big deal.***
(4) The end result of which is that things shd start moving quickly now. During the enforced down time, they had time to work on the script, scout locations, create sets and models, perfect any new make-up and special effect techniques, &c. They did lose their director, Del Toro, who made what seemed at the time a reasonable decision to bail on the film after the delays stretched on and on. A bad choice on his part, it turns out, but so it goes. Personally, I've always hoped Jackson wd direct it himself, so it'd be a smoother match for his LotR films. They still need to lock down McKellan, and Serkis, and I suppose Weaving (though I wdn't mind if someone else played that role here). About the only disappointing bit of casting news I heard was that former Dr. Who Sylvester McCoy has been tapped to play Radagast:
Too bad: his main claim to fame is having been the second-worst Dr. Who ever.**** This casting strikes me as bizarre, given that if you were going to go that route Tom Baker, the greatest of the doctors, is still alive, though getting on a bit (in his mid-seventies now).
On the other hand, there is the cheerful thought that since he's playing someone who doesn't appear in the book, McCoy's scene may not wind up appearing in the movie either (i.e., the theatrical release). But that seems unlikely. We'll just have to suck it up and hope Jackson can cox a career-transcending performance out of unpromising material. He's done it before.
(5) And finally, I learn from the new BEYOND BREE (just arrived) that the studios have finally done the right thing and paid the Tolkien Estate the money they owed them. And again we're talking a lot of money here: "millions of dollars" according to the passage quoted in BEYOND BREE (cf. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/10/jrr-tolkeins-the-hobbit-might-finally-be-coming-to-screens.html). There's nothing like needing something out of somebody to make a big business do the right thing. So that's good news at least.
***but then given that the first three films made about ten billion dollars all told, there's an awful lot of money potentially to be made from the two-part HOBBIT film.
****beaten out only by his predecessor, Colin Baker as the sixth doctor.