Nicole Sperling
April 24, 2008 AT 12:00 PM EDT

It’s finally official: Guillermo Del Toro, the acclaimed writer/director of Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy, has come aboard The Hobbit, a two-film epic he will direct over the next four years. The long-awaited news was announced today by New Line’s new head, Toby Emmerich, and MGM’s new head, Mary Parent. Del Toro will move to New Zealand for the next four years to work with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and his Wingnut and WETA production teams. (Jackson and his partner, Fran Walsh, will executive produce both movies.) Del Toro will direct the two films back-to-back, with the first movie telling the story of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original book and the sequel dealing with the 60-year period between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The recently downsized New Line will oversee the development and production of the films, cofinancing them with MGM. Warner Bros. will distribute the film domestically, while MGM will handle the international release.

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