One of the hottest movie gossip topics over the past few weeks has centered on who will direct The Hobbit now that Guillermo del Toro has stepped aside. Website TheOneRing.net has the latest surprising rumor -- Neill Blomkamp.

The site goes to great lengths to stress that the story is purely speculation at this point, but they lay out all their cards in support of it and go on to state that their personal take is that there may indeed be some truth to it. It's a detailed piece and I highly recommend checking it out for yourself, but here are the highlights and some of the reasons they feel the story makes sense.

Since del Toro's departure, MGM and Warner Bros. have been adamant about wanting Peter Jackson to return to direct both Hobbit films. It makes sense -- Jackson's already done the Lord of the Rings and he has name recognition. Unfortunately, Jackson doesn't want to direct the movies -- feeling that he's already done everything with Middle Earth that he can and to do more would be to potentially tarnish his legacy. The decision to hire del Toro was good not only because he would have made a great version of The Hobbit, but also because Jackson trusted the filmmaker enough that he felt as though the project would be in capable hands without his involvement.

Hit the jump for the reasons why Blomkamp directing makes sense and some news on how the production is shaping up.

This information seemingly points to Jackson wanting to hire a replacement that he has the same level of trust in -- enter Blomkamp. The District 9 director isn't as big a name as Jackson or del Toro, but he is coming off making a film that got Oscar consideration -- and more importantly, he and Jackson have a very good relationship from the time spent making that film. It would seem as though hiring Blomkamp would allow Jackson to hand the project over to another talented director -- one he wouldn't have to babysit during production.

TheOneRing has gotten this information from several different sources, some trusted, some not so well known, so there appears to be at least the possibility that this could come to pass. One source even says they've seen a breakdown with Blomkamp listed as director. If that's the case, then why the secrecy? Speculation is that the production is waiting to make the announcement until Comic-Con, which is next month. That makes sense too -- where better to break this kind of news than at the biggest nerd gathering on Earth?

Even without a director officially attached, casting is moving forward according to those close to the production. Auditions are happening, pre-pre-production work is being done, and the rumor is that shooting will commence at the very start of 2011. TheOneRing cites this as one more piece of potential evidence that Blomkamp (or someone ... ) has been hired. Directors don't entirely control casting in most instances, but they have a say and it's hard to imagine them putting people into parts for a film like this without having a director giving it his stamp of approval.

It has to be stressed that this is still entirely a rumor (and TheOneRing is sure to make that clear), but it's an intriguing one that makes a certain amount of sense when examined. I was bummed when del Toro left the project, but I think seeing what Blomkamp could do in Middle Earth would be quite interesting. Short of getting Jackson back, this may be the next best thing. What do you think? Can Blomkamp go from Prawns to Hobbits or is he the wrong guy for this gig?