Amazon has been making a huge push into fantasy TV, led by an eyebrow-raisingly ambitious television adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels, which of course were already adapted into director Peter Jackson’s blockbuster film trilogy. Here’s everything we know so far about Amazon’s forthcoming series:
In May of 2018, multiple sources at Amazon Studios reportedly told Tolkien fan site TheOneRing.net, which broke the news, that the first season of the forthcoming series will center on a younger Aragorn, the future King of the Reunited Kingdom, who was played by Viggo Mortensen in Jackson’s film series.
In a following Twitter thread, TheOneRing.net also speculated that the television adaptation will not retell the events of the War of the Ring explored in the Peter film series, but will rather draw from The Lord of the Rings Appendices published alongside The Return of the King, the final volume of Tolkien’s novels.
As of March 2021, the official logline reads:
Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.
In November 2017, Amazon reportedly paid $250 million for the rights to a The Lord of the Rings series, which, when produced, could sport a $1-billion price tag. The deal was struck by the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, publisher HarperCollins and New Line Cinema, and came with a multi-season commitment, said to be good for five seasons, and a potential spinoff, as THR reported at the time.
also reported this April that Amazon Studios had outbid streaming rival Netflix to close the $250-million deal, which stipulates that Amazon must be in production on a Lord of the Rings series within two years (which…). The deal also permits the series to use footage from the New Line films.
Amazon head Jeff Bezos was personally involved in making the deal happen, having told since-ousted Amazon Studios head Roy Price last September to create the next Game of Thrones. Price quit the company the following month, before the deal went public, after allegations of sexual misconduct. Two other embattled Hollywood execs, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, were profit participants on the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, having owned the Tolkien film rights through Miramax before they were sold to New Line in 1998, but it does not seem likely that they will claim profits on the forthcoming series.
Jennifer Salke, who took over as Amazon Studios head in June, revealed a few intriguing tidbits about the company’s Lord of the Rings series in a Deadline interview. She revealed that Amazon was currently working on “one big series,” rather than multiple, and that she was currently in talks with Peter Jackson about his possible involvement in the forthcoming series.
When asked about whether the series will feature the same characters as the films, Salke said, “I think you can know that we’re not remaking the movies, but we’re also not starting from scratch. So, it’ll be characters you love.” At the time, Salke also said she was in talks with Jackson and the Tolkien estate in order to set writers for the series.
Salke was also asked about whether the series would return to the New Zealand sets constructed for Peter Jackson’s film trilogy. “I think we might be in New Zealand. I don’t know, but we’re going to have to go somewhere interesting that could provide those locations in a really authentic way, because we want it to look incredible,” she responded.
The following month, John D. Payne and Patrick McKay, who also wrote the forthcoming Star Trek 4, were announced as showrunners to write and develop the series. The full creative team includes executive producers Lindsey Weber (10 Cloverfield Lane), Bruce Richmond (Game of Thrones), Gene Kelly (Boardwalk Empire) and Sharon Tal Yguado; writer/executive producer Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad); writer/executive producer Jason Cahill (The Sopranos) writer/executive producer Justin Doble (Stranger Things); consulting producers Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) and Stephany Folsom (Toy Story 4); producer Ron Ames (The Aviator); writer/co-producer Helen Shang (Hannibal), and writing consultant Glenise Mullins.
Also announced were costume designer Kate Hawley (Suicide Squad); Academy Award-winning production designer Rick Heinrichs (Star Wars: The Last Jedi); Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor Jason Smith (The Revenant); Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey; and renowned illustrator/concept artist John Howe.
Under the terms of its deal, Amazon Studios must go into production on its Lord of the Rings series within two years. Another June 2018 interview with Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke, this one with THR, also provided more details about when we can expect the series to hit airwaves. In the interview, Salke revealed that “2021 is the hope,” although “there are other people who wish it was 2020.”
In mid-February of 2019, Amazon revealed their Lord of the Rings series’ social media handles (@LOTRonPrime on Twitter and Instagram), as well as its unmarked world map, which you can explore (and download) below.
As of the map’s unveiling, the series was still without a timetable for launch.
Amazon revealed in early July 2019 that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona was been tapped to direct the series’ first two episodes in addition to executive producing alongside his producing partner Belén Atienza.
Casting began shortly after Bayona signed on, with Markella Kavenagh, Will Poulter and Joseph Mawle coming aboard in key roles over the next few months. Though Amazon hasn’t revealed any official details of their characters, it’s reported that Kavenagh and Poulter are playing two lead characters named Tyra and Beldor, respectively, with Mawle as a villain named Oren. (Later, Poulter reportedly dropped out of the project due to scheduling conflicts.)
Amazon then renewed the series for a second season in mid-November 2019.
In January of 2020, Amazon confirmed the series’ main cast, which in addition to Mawle and Kavenagh includes: Robert Aramayo, Morfydd Clark, Ema Horvath, Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers and Daniel Weyman. Maxim Baldry then joined the cast in early March.
Then, in December of 2020, Amazon announced additional cast members: Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Maxim Baldry, Ian Blackburn, Kip Chapman, Anthony Crum, Maxine Cunliffe, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Thusitha Jayasundera, Fabian McCallum, Simon Merrells,? Geoff Morrell, Peter Mullan, Lloyd Owen, Augustus Prew, Peter Tait, Alex Tarrant, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker and Sara Zwangobani.
Amazon Studios has also announced that British Chinese director Wayne Che Yip has joined the team as a director and co-executive producer of the project. The Lord of the Rings television series is currently filming in New Zealand, where Yip is set to direct four episodes after Bayona’s initial two. Yip is known for his work on Hunters, Preachers, Utopia, and Doctor Who.
Keep your Sauron-like eye trained on this space for further updates.
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