Reporting on The Hobbit has become fraught with difficulty. Say it's delayed, and you will see a flurry of denials from every respectable corner of the Internet. But now there appears to be some definitive bad news to come out of the pre-production. According to TheOneRing.net, Guillermo Del Toro is departing The Hobbit. Lest you think this is fansite speculation, the statement was officially made by Del Toro and Peter Jackson to the site.

Del Toro won't direct the film, though he will continue to co-write the screenplays with Fran Walsh, Jackson and Phillipa Boyens. He cites the delays (those delays that supposedly aren't real) as the reason for leaving the production. "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 ... The blessings have been plenty, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wish the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director."

Jackson, New Line, and Warner Bros will be sitting down this week to find a new director. Jackson doesn't anticipate the search will cause any major delay in the production. Will he take on the reins himself? Or will they hand it over to one of a second-unit Lord of the Rings director, like Richard Matthews, Geoff Murphy or John Mahaffie?