Hollywood director Guillermo del Toro has said production delays have forced him to quit the planned film version of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit.
The film is a two-part prequel to New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson's blockbuster trilogy Lord of the Rings.
"In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming The Hobbit, I am faced with the hardest decision of my life," del Toro told a Lord of the Rings fan website.
"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," he said, noting the film still hadn't been given the green light by MGM, the struggling Hollywood studio.
Matt Dravitzki, a spokesman for Hobbit producer and Lord Of The Rings director Jackson, said del Toro would not be speaking to reporters.
The announcement by del Toro reflected Jackson and del Toro's "full sentiments at this time," he said.
Del Toro would continue to co-write the screenplays with Jackson and his wife, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens.
Jackson reached a deal in late 2007 to make two films of The Hobbit. He is serving as joint executive producer with Walsh.
Last week, del Toro, who directed Pan's Labyrinth, Blade and the two Hellboy movies, told journalists the Hobbit films, which have been plagued by delays, still hadn't been given the go ahead.
"There cannot be any start dates until the MGM situation gets resolved," del Toro said. "They do hold a considerable portion of the rights."