Peter Jackson in Talks to Direct “The Hobbit”

The man credited for bringing Middle Earth to the silver screen, Peter Jackson, is reportedly in negotiations to direct “The Hobbit,” a two-part prequel to the filmmaker from New Zealand’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

The reports come about a month since Guillermo del Toro of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the “Hellboy” franchise relinquished his directorial job on “The Hobbit.” Jackson is already one of the writers and producers of the planned film.

Start of production for “The Hobbit” has been hampered by the financial woes of MGM, which owns 50 percent of the rights to the JRR Tolkien classic. MGM is currently looking for takers in a bid to payoff debts amounting to billions of dollars. The production delay is believed to be the reason why del Toro dropped out of the project.

With Jackson now the likely frontrunner to helm the project, MGM and its partner, New Line Cinema, may have to convince the 48-year-old director to take a pay cut, considering that he already is assured of a share for being one of the producers. Tolkien’s estate is also entitled to a share of the gross income of the project.

If the project materializes, the first part of the film might be released in 2012 with the second part hitting theaters the year after.