Unions threaten Hobbit boycott: Will this movie EVER happen?

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:31 PM EST

First, hopeful director Guillermo del Toro leaves, then MGM runs out of money, and now almost every actors' union under the sun is boycotting The Hobbit. Apparently, The Hobbit hasn't been through enough.

Back in 2007, New Line thought it'd be a good idea to extend the Lord of the Rings franchise by doing an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel, The Hobbit. And, lo, everyone thought it was a smashing idea—including MGM, which ultimately controls the rights. So much so that all parties concerned set their sights on two films: one that would tell the story of Bilbo, the Ring, Smaug and the Battle of Five Armies and another that would fill in the gaps between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring.

Brilliant, everyone said, especially everyone who stood to make money off of it, because two films will earn more than one. Jackson, who already devoted a decent chunk of his life to Middle-earth, brought in Guillermo del Toro to direct, and together they spent the better part of two years in New Zealand hammering out the story, doing design work. And, lo, everyone thought it was still a smashing idea.

Until the bottom fell out. MGM could barely muster the cash to make a mortgage payment, let alone finance a pair of big-budget fantasy films (or continue the Bond franchise). Del Toro, frustrated at the lack of movement, bowed out to wrangle the other 15 movies on his plate, leaving Jackson to soldier on, the Steward of The Hobbit. Now, led by Australia's Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (at the behest of New Zealand's thespians), seven actors' unions—the Screen Actors Guild; U.S. Actors Equity; Canadian Actors Equity; U.K. Actors Equity; the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists; and the aforementioned Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance — are calling for a boycott, stating that The Hobbit will use non-union contracts, which will, according to the unions, cheat performers out of residuals.

Finally, Jackson fired back. He's threatening to shoot The Hobbit in some as-yet-unnamed Eastern European country instead of his beloved New Zealand—or shut it down entirely—if this boycott isn't resolved. "It feels as if we have a large Aussie cousin kicking sand in our eyes," Jackson said in a statement. "Seriously, if The Hobbit goes east, look forward to a long, dry big-budget movie drought in this country." Not that Jackson is looking to screw anyone out of well-earned money: He insisted that he "has always attempted to treat my actors and crew with fairness and respect," adding that any nonunion actors involved with the movie would be part of a profit-sharing pool.

Still, it seems like every day, in every way, the odds on anyone ever seeing The Hobbit are just getting worse.

(Via E! Online and GammaSquad)