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The movie industry feud over who directs a film of The Hobbit is heating up, showbusiness newspaper Variety reports.

Bob Shaye, head of New Line Cinema - which produced the Lord of the Rings and controls the rights to The Hobbit until 2009 - said in an interview the studio would not work with Lord of the Rings (LOTR) director Peter Jackson on The Hobbit.

Jackson is embroiled in a legal wrangle with New Line over royalties from the Lord of the Rings films, which have grossed more than US$3 billion ($4.42 billion) in ticket sales alone since 2001.

"I do not want to make a movie with somebody who is suing me," Shaye told Sci-Fi Wire. "It will never happen on my watch."

"(Jackson's) got a quarter of a billion dollars paid to him so far, justifiably, according to contract, completely right, and this guy turns around without wanting to have a discussion with us and sues us," Shaye said.

"I don't want to work with that guy anymore. Why would I? So the answer is, he will never make any movie with New Line Cinema again while I'm still working at the company," he said.

Shaye also expressed anger that several members of the Lord of the Rings cast had declined to participate in upcoming events to mark New Line's 40th anniversary, blaming Jackson's lawsuit for the apparent boycott.

"I'm incredibly offended," Shaye said. "I don't care about Peter Jackson anymore. He wants to have another US$100 million or US$50 million, whatever he's suing us for ... he thinks that we owe him something after we've paid him over a quarter of a billion dollars. ... Cheers, Peter."

New Line was not immediately available for comment.

Jackson said in a statement published by trade daily Variety yesterday that he was disappointed by Shaye's comments.

"It is regrettable that Bob has chosen to make it personal. I have always had the highest respect and affection for Bob and other senior management at New Line and continue to do so," Jackson said.

He said he had been left with "no alternative" to take legal action against New Line because the company "was and continues to be completely unco-operative" over the royalties wrangle.

The feud between New Line and Jackson went public last November, when Jackson issued a statement to website saying he was ruling himself out of the The Hobbit because of the legal dispute.

Jackson said in the statement he had refused to accept an offer from New Line, which owns the rights to The Hobbit, to be allowed to direct the film in exchange for dropping his lawsuit.

"In our minds this is not the right reason to make a film and if a film of The Hobbit went ahead on this basis, it would be doomed," Jackson said.

The prospect of The Hobbit, which tells the story of how Bilbo Baggins discovers the ring of power, being made without Jackson has angered fans of the books and films.

Several cast members from the Rings trilogy, most notably British actor Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf the wizard, have expressed dismay.

"I'm very sad as I should have relished revisiting Middle Earth with Peter again," the actor said on his website last November.

"It's hard to imagine any other director matching his achievement in Tolkien country."

Rings' Slaughter

* The Return of the King had the highest bodycount of any movie in history, according to a website for film fans.

* Director Peter Jackson killed off 836 characters in the third part of The Lord of the Rings saga, made in 2003, according to

* Jackson also scored a quinella on the cinema slaughter list by killing off 468 characters in the second part of the LOTR trilogy, The Two Towers, in 2002. The website counted only the corpses whose faces could be seen.

* Hong Kong action movie Hard Boiled, 1992, directed by John Woo, was third with 307 corpses.