Guillermo del Toro
said yesterday that production delays have forced him to quit the planned film version of
's "The Hobbit," a two-part prequel to New Zealand filmmaker
's blockbuster trilogy "Lord of the Rings."
"In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming 'The Hobbit,' I am faced with the hardest decision of my life," del Toro told a "Lord of the Rings" Web site.
"After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien's Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures," he said, noting that the film still hadn't been given the go-ahead by struggling MGM.
Del Toro will continue to co-write the scripts with Jackson, his wife, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens.
Jackson told TheOneRing.net: "We feel very sad to see Guillermo leave 'The Hobbit,' but he has kept us fully in the loop and we understand how the protracted development time on these two films, due to reasons beyond anyone's control, has compromised his commitment to other long-term projects.
"The bottom line is that Guillermo just didn't feel he could commit six years to living in New Zealand, exclusively making these films, when his original commitment was for three years. Guillermo is one of the most remarkable creative spirits I've ever encountered and it has been a complete joy working with him."
* It's another scoop for Oprah.
On today's show, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson says that she had been drinking and was "not in my right place" when caught on video offering access to her former husband, Prince Andrew, for $724,000.
Fergie has seen parts of the video and says to Oprah she could tell she was "in the gutter at that moment."
* Celine Dion, 42, is 14 weeks pregnant with twins.
Celine and her husband/manager Rene Angelil have one son, 9-year-old Rene Charles.
She had undergone several rounds of in-vitro fertilization in an attempt to get pregnant again.
The pregnancy was first reported by People.
Celine is working on new albums in English and French, but what would be more impressive is to have twins in English and French.
* The Tony Award-winning musical "Avenue Q," which features a character based on Gary Coleman, is planning to keep the character, a child star who now works as a building superintendent, even after Coleman's death on Friday.
"Avenue Q" is a show about twentysomething New Yorkers, featuring both humans and puppets.
* Think of it as a much bigger "American Idol."
In Norway, 19-year-old German Lena Meyer-Landrut won the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest with "Satellite," an upbeat, catchy pop song.
It was only Germany's second win in the contest's 55-year history.
Lena had been second choice among bookmakers but first in a Google predictor program. Her victory marks the second year in a row that the Google program has correctly projected the winner of Eurovision.
Hey, Google, who's going to win the Belmont?
"I'm so happy and so thankful and so grateful, and I never thought we could do this," Lena said. Covering her face with a German flag and looking bewildered, she asked: "Do I have to sing now?"
Not only do you have to sing, you have to be chancellor.
Oil-rich Norway spent $31 million to host the elaborate songfest, while several countries, including the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Andorra and Hungary, pulled out, citing financial strains. Sore losers were the Russians, winners two years ago, who thought that the German victory was tied to the falling European economy.
On Russian state TV, an announcer said, "Clearly everyone knows where to turn when they need money."
Daily News wire services contributed to this report.