Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo Del Toro has been linked with the upcoming film version of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit.

After a lengthy legal battle with Peter Jackson, helmer of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, New Line and MGM Studios confirmed that the dispute had been resolved, adding that the New Zealander was to executive produce two films based on the book.

A director has not yet been confirmed for the project - expected to involve the two movies being shot simultaneously - and Oscar-nominated Del Toro is thought to be a likely contender.

Talking to Entertainment Weekly, the Mexican director explained he would be overjoyed to take a trip to Middle Earth.

When asked if he'd been approached by New Line and MGM, Del Toro said: "I've heard some rumblings, but nothing official. I don't want to think about it because it's such an eventuality."

He explained: "It's the only Tolkien book I read. I tried my best to read The Lord Of The Rings, the trilogy. I could not. I could not. They were very dense.

"And then one day, I bought The Hobbit. I read it and I loved it. So it would be a privilege. But listen, I wish I knew."

Peter Jackson and New Line had been involved in a long-running dispute regarding royalties generated from the hugely successful fantasy trilogy but a statement issued by the studio this week confirmed the Kiwi - and partner Fran Walsh - is to executive produce two films based on The Hobbit.

The first is thought to be a straight adaptation of the book and should hit the screen in 2010 while the second could serve as a prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, using Tolkien's lengthy appendices as source material.

Del Toro explained that the idea of working with the creative talents of Jackson, Walsh, and their long-term special effects partners Weta Digital, was a mouthwatering prospect.

"I met Peter and Fran when we were trying to do Halo. I think what they're doing in New Zealand is amazing," he said.

"What they're doing, in terms of the way they approach filmmaking — the way I see it is, it's Hollywood the way God intended it.

"Because it's a filmmaker's dream and a filmmaker's facility. So it's heaven. The question is: Will I go to heaven? I have no idea."

20/12/2007 09:58:41