December 08, 2003 05:19 PM

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” may be the concluding installment of the trilogy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the J.R.R. Tolkien saga is over yet.

The series’ director, Peter Jackson, (who, based on early reviews, is an odds-on favorite to snap up the Oscar for best director next Feb. 29) says he’d like to re-assemble some of his “Rings” cast to make the trilogy’s prequel, “The Hobbit.”

“I’d be interested in doing it because I think it would give continuity to the overall chapter,” Jackson, 42, told journalists in Germany, where “Return of the King” has just opened, Reuters reports.

Such a new movie could feature many of the “Hobbit” characters, Jackson suggested, including the wizard Gandalf (played by Ian McKellen), and Gollum, the computer-generated cave dweller. Jackson also said that Arwen, the elf princess played by Liv Tyler, could figure in.

Not that the filmmaker is prepared to leap right into another “Rings” rigmarole. “I’m glad there’s not a fourth ‘Lord of the Rings’ film next year,” he said after turning out one per year since 2000. “I feel very tired and exhausted.”

What he does have on his plate is a remake of the great ape classic “King Kong” which, like the “Rings,” Jackson will shoot in his native New Zealand, using much of his the same special-effects team. The director plans to take off a few weeks for Christmas and then start writing the script.

“I have every aspiration to make King Kong much cooler,” he said. “It’s going to be a very beautiful film.”

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