In case you were unplugged and off the information grid all weekend, broke the story that Guillermo del Toro has stepped away from directing duties on two planned (hoped for) films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” We are assured (by one of the super-good inside sources) that GDT’s DNA in the form of script and design and pre-viz work will remain in place, new director willing. And why would they find a director who isn’t willing or wants to revisit the same work?

After getting over the shock and feeling the loss of our message board member’s departure, and wishing him all the best, the question now becomes: Who will direct “The Hobbit”? We have some ideas and maybe even some insights.

Peter Jackson: Current Hobbit co-writer and producer, he says he will not let the project fall apart but he told the Dominion Post: “If that’s what I have to do to protect Warner Bros’ investment, then obviously that’s one angle which I’ll explore.” It sounds like Jackson is reassuring Warners and fans not to despair. Conversations with the studios and Jackson on a replacement have already started and it isn’t as though there aren’t talented directors who would want to tackle these films. For example . . .

Neil Blomkamp: His “District 9” came from the ashes of the failed “Halo” film, with Peter Jackson producing and earned an Academy Award nomination for “Best Picture.” Jackson thought the young director could handle the giant, special-effects-heavy video game film and then he made the independently-financed Wikus Van De Merwe film with down-on-their-luck aliens who crave cat food in Johannesburg. It earned over $200 million worldwide. Imagine what he could do with Weta and a budget. (And, we note, little or no studio interference!)

Sam Raimi: This man is a true geek (in a good way) and before del Toro was signed, we kept hearing his name as a strong possibility for “The Hobbit”. He has made action-oriented films with lighthearted moments and has nailed genre characters while producing big-time profits for studios. Fans who haven’t forgiven him for “Emo” Peter Parker need to have a guffaw with him for “Drag Me to Hell”. He gets it. Would he direct after not being the first choice? Bruce Campbell as Bard the Bowman?

Alfonso Cuaron: A lot of fans (and one would assume studio types) would love to see GDT’s friend step in to fill the gap. The director of a book-adapted Harry Potter film that runs circles around the rest in the series and especially the transcendent “Children of Men,” would be welcome. But unless this MGM situation gets settled soon (and we maintain from whispers that it might), what advice do you think he would hear from his pal Guillermo?

Andrew Adamson: It seems almost impossible that Adamson could direct and produce Narnia movies and Shrek movies and then fly under the radar as well as he has. Like Jackson, he calls New Zealand home and is based just a short flight up the island in Auckland. He already has extensive experience with Weta (LOTR’s, Narnia’s and the Hobbit’s special effects house) and might make the smoothest transition to helm the films. He may lack the “edge” that del Toro and Jackson and even Raimi and Blomkamp have shown in their bodies of work or it may be that he just hasn’t had the opportunities. Still, it seems impossible not to have him in the conversation.

Steven Spielberg and James Cameron are unlikely candidates despite what some fans wish for. Jackson’s circle of friends is pretty interesting though and Cameron raves about working in New Zealand and with Weta but there is nothing to suggest either of these busy guys are an actual possibility. Other names are being thrown around the internet wildly. Some are guesses, some are speculation and some are completely absurd. Hey! Why not Woody Allen? He directs movies after all!

Remember, Jackson wasn’t a proven big-budget commodity when New Line took a chance on “The Lord of the Rings,” more than 10 years ago. He had directed some splatter films, “Heavenly Creatures,” and “The Frighteners,” before New Line handed over the reigns. He appreciates and develops unheralded talent and may pull a director out of his hat. Imagine the size and scope of what “Halo,” would have been and he was perfectly willing to let the unknown Blomkamp have a go. Remember too that the project fell apart because the studios couldn’t come to terms on how to divide the (probably) billions with each other and it had nothing at all to do with the rookie director.

To be clear, the project lives on, Guillermo’s and Jackson’s influence remain and “The Hobbit” will go forward with a new director. Who? When? Stay tuned and you will know when we do.

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