Guillermo Del Toro has landed his 'dream' job as the confirmed director of The
Hobbit for New Line and MGM, the studios and executive producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh announced on Thursday.

The move was widely expected after it emerged four months ago that Jackson would serve as executive producer on J R R Tolkien's precursor to The Lord Of The Rings trilogy - which Jackson made with such stunning success for New Line. In addition, there will be another film based on an original story bridging the 60-year gap between events in The Hobbit and the trilogy.

Del Toro will move to New Zealand for the next four years to work with Jackson and his Wingnut and WETA production teams. He will direct both films back-to-back. New Line is overseeing development and will manage production. MGM will distribute internationally and Warner Brothers holds domestic rights.

'Guillermo is a film-maker of outstanding ability,' Jackson and Walsh said, adding: 'We have long admired Guillermo's work and cannot think of a more inspired film-maker to take the journey back to Middle-Earth. We are delighted The Hobbit is in such trustworthy hands.'

'This is a great honour, and I am indeed blessed to become a part of the film-making community that Peter, Fran and their extraordinary team of collaborators have created in New Zealand,' Del Toro said, adding that the appointment was 'a dream come true.'

'Guillermo has a proven ability to bring fantasy worlds to life in a compelling and emotional way,' New Line Cinema's president and COO Toby Emmerich said. 'He is the ideal filmmaker to work with Peter and Fran to bring Tolkien's beloved Middle-Earth back to the screen.'

'As the international distributors for The Hobbit films, we couldn't agree more with Peter, Fran and our partners at New Line - Guillermo is the perfect choice to direct,' chairperson of MGM's worldwide picture group Mary Parent said. 'Audiences across the globe enjoy his unique cinematic viewpoint, imaginative direction and provocative storytelling talents. '

Del Toro, whose action sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army will open through Universal on July 11, previously directed Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone and Blade 2, among others.