LOS ANGELES – It’s time to celebrate again in Middle Earth.

Peter Jackson is set to direct “The Hobbit,” the two-part prequel to the popular “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and start shooting in February, Warner Bros. said in a release Friday.

The movies, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, had been delayed by union issues and the ongoing restructuring of flailing Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which owns half the project.

Jackson, who directed the “Rings” trilogy, had originally hired Guillermo del Toro to direct, but del Toro left the project in May because of delays after working on the project for nearly two years.

Jackson co-wrote the screenplays with del Toro, his wife, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens.

“Exploring Tolkien’s Middle Earth goes way beyond a normal filmmaking experience,” Jackson said in the statement. “We’re looking forward to re-entering this wondrous world with Gandalf and Bilbo.”

The two movies will be shot back to back using digital 3-D cameras. Earlier this year, Warner Bros. had been criticized for hastily converting “Clash of the Titans” into 3-D after shooting it using regular cameras.

No release dates for the movies were given.

Director cancels Israel visit over loyalty oath

JERUSALEM – British filmmaker Mike Leigh has canceled a visit to Israel to protest a proposed loyalty oath for new citizens.

The bill, passed by Israel’s Cabinet last week, would require non-Jewish immigrants to pledge loyalty to a “Jewish and democratic” state — language widely seen as discriminatory toward Israel’s Arab minority.

Leigh, the award-winning director of “Naked” and “Secrets & Lies,” was to participate in a film festival next month. He is Jewish.

Writing to the school sponsoring the event, Leigh said he opposed Israel’s policies on Gaza, but he called the loyalty oath the “last straw.”

Teen’s TV appearance as ‘sex addict’ stirs suit


ATLANTA – A Georgia woman is suing Tyra Banks for $3 million after she said her 15-year-old daughter appeared without her permission on a 2009 episode of Banks’ talk show about teen sex addicts.

In a lawsuit filed Oct. 8 in federal court in Atlanta, Beverly McClendon claims the show contacted the teen after she responded to a request on the show’s website seeking “sex addicts.” The girl was then picked up from her home in Georgia in a limo and flown to New York, where she was put up in a hotel, all without her mother’s knowledge, the lawsuit says.

McClendon filed a missing person report with local police when she realized her daughter was gone. The teen has never been diagnosed as a sex addict, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also names Warner Bros. Entertainment and the executive producers of the show as defendants.

McClendon says her daughter faced damages because the show “was undoubtedly watched by sexual deviants, perverts and pedophiles.”

The lawsuit asks for $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages. It also asks the court to bar the episode from ever being aired again on television or online.

Warner Bros. Television Group spokesman Scott Rowe said Sunday that the company had no comment. Banks’ publicist, agent and lawyer did not immediately return calls Sunday seeking comment.

The show violated McClendon’s right to privacy by putting her daughter, a minor, on TV without McClendon’s permission, the suit says.