‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation

‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation

19 Nov 2019 (PT)
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOWTHE LORD OF THE RINGSLORD OF THE RINGSTHE RINGAMAZON

While Amazon has become an Emmys juggernaut with more intimate series like “Fleabag” and “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” those kind of character-based stories are not all the streaming service does — or plans to do. And no upcoming series proves that point more than Amazon's long-awaited, multi-season television adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's “The Lord of the Rings.”

Amazon has kept news about “The Lord of the Rings” as quiet as it possibly can, but IndieWire has compiled a list of the nine must-know details about the upcoming series. From its big shoes to fill as another Tolkien adaptation to its hush-hush casting, below is everything you need to know about Amazon's “The Lord of the Rings.”

For the Newbies, It's Based on Epic Source Material

Chances are fairly high you already know about the source material of this particular Amazon series, but in case you don't: Amazon's “The Lord of the Rings” series is based on author J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy novel series of the same name. A sequel series to Tolkien's 1937 novel “The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings” consists of three novels: “The Fellowship of the Ring” published in July 1954, “The Two Towers” published in November 1954, and “The Return of the King” published in October 1955. Take notes, George R.R. Martin.

Both of these stories exist in a world of mythical creatures such as wizards, dwarves, elves, orcs, and of course, hobbits. “The Hobbit” follows the titular hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, as he embarks on an incredibly dangerous adventure far away from the safety of his home in the idyllic Shire. During his travels, he found the One Ring and took it home with him. “The Lord of the Rings” begins with an older Bilbo giving the Ring to his younger cousin Frodo, who is then tasked—with the aid of the Company of the Ring—to destroy the ring in the Fire of Mount Doom in Mordor, where it was forged and the only place it can be destroyed.

Since their original publications, there have been multiple adaptations of both “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” in a number of media radio, television, film, stage, in both live-action and animated formats. But most notably, both “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” also as a trilogy were adapted to the big screen, in major live-action motion pictures directed by Peter Jackson.

‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation
Photo : New Line/Saul Zaentz/Wing Nut/Kobal/Shutterstock

There's A Lot of Hype to Live Up To

As mentioned, the most well-known adaptations of these novels have been the live-action feature films directed by New Zealand director Peter Jackson. Jackson's approach to the trilogy in films released from 2001-2003 was a true critical and financial success story, with the conclusion to the trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” becoming the second film to ever make over a $1 billion following “Titanic” at the box office and tying with “Ben-Hur” and “Titanic” for the record of most Oscars won. In fact, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” swept the Oscars that year, winning in all 11 of the categories for which it was nominated.

Out of 30 total Oscar nominations received over the course of three films—in categories ranging from to Best Makeup to Best Picture—“The Lord of the Rings” won 17.

To this day, “The Lord of the Rings” cast—Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, Ian McKellan as Gandalf, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christoper Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, and Andy Serkis—remains beloved, with the new series' existence leading to questions about whether or not movie cast will show up.

‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation
Photo : Twitter: @LOTRonPrime

It's Actually a Prequel Series

When the Amazon series was originally announced, there was an assumption was that it would be a retelling of the trilogy of books, just like the movies. But then in March, it was confirmed that the series would actually be a prequel series, with rumor swirling that it would center on a young Aragorn portrayed by Viggo Mortensen in the movies. However, in the lead-up to confirmation, Middle-earth maps posted by the official AmazonThe Lord of the Rings” Twitter profile showed lands that would've only existed long before the character's time. Though the show will feature the island of Númenor, the home of Aragorn's ancestors.

The Amazon series, then, will actually take place during the Second Age of Middle-earth.

For reference, “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” novel and film trilogy are set thousands of years after the Second Age, toward the end of the Third Age. The Second Age, on the other hand, is most notable for being the time period when Sauron the titular lord of the rings and very integral to the Second Age created the One Ring to rule all the other Rings of Power. By the time Smeagol had come across the Ring, it had been lost for over 2,000 years.

If you're wondering how much ground can be covered in the series with the Second Age as its setting, note that the Second Age spans 3,441 years.

‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation
Photo : Todd Williamson/JanuaryImages/Shutterstock

It Cost a Pretty Penny to Make Middle-earth a Reality Again

Back in 2017, when it was reported that Amazon had bought the rights to “The Lord of the Rings”—winning a bidding war against Netflix—the number reported with that sale was $250 million. That number alone made it the most expensive television series ever, but later, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the whole series would end up costing more than $1 billion, due to production expenses casting, producers, visual effects, etc..

The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy's own Elijah Wood reacted to that particular figure during an interview, saying, “That's crazy to me.” For context, the Peter Jackson trilogy grossed $2.92 billion worldwide. The combined budget for all three films was $281 million.

‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation
Photo : New Line/Saul Zaentz/Wing Nut/Kobal/Shutterstock

Prepare for Another Epic Journey

That $250 million rights deal for “The Lord of the Rings” also came with a five-season commitment for the series. A guaranteed five seasons should also guarantee at least one full story told from beginning to end, even though there's always the possibility of more, depending on the series' success. The deal also allowed for the potential of spin-off series, which could mean the potential for even more of Middle-earth outside just this adaptation. In November 2019, Deadline confirmed that Amazon had officially ordered a second season of the series and that it was already in the works. According to the report, the official early renewal means that there will be a shorter wait time between the first two seasons come release.

However, the series may not ever get out of the Second Age—which is, again, 3,441 years long, so it's got a lot to work with—as, according to Tolkien scholar and “The Lord of the Rings” consultant Tom Shippey, the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien has refused to grant Amazon permission to film anything other than the Second Age, as to not er the history of the more fleshed out Third Age. “But you can add new characters and ask a lot of questions, like: What has Sauron done in the meantime? Where was he after Morgoth was defeated? Theoretically, Amazon can answer these questions by inventing the answers, since Tolkien did not describe it,” Shippey explained. “But it must not contradict anything which Tolkien did say. That's what Amazon has to watch out for. It must be canonical, it is impossible to change the boundaries which Tolkien has created. It is necessary to remain 'Tolkienian'.”

Shippey also revealed that there will be 20 episodes in the series' first season.

‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation
Photo : Amazon

What's Going on Behind the Scenes?

In July 2018, it was announced that writing duo JD Payne and Patrick McKay would develop “The Lord of the Rings” for Amazon, serving as the series' executive producers and showrunners. While it was a big move forward in terms of the series' development, this particular news was a shock, especially because of the scale of the series. Prior to the news, Payne and McKay's IMDB pages were empty, save for their uncredited writing job on “Star Trek Beyond.” But Star Trek” producer J.J. Abrams was reportedly one of a number of high-profile producers who recommended Payne and McKay for the position.

Since then, Payne and McKay have also written the screenplay for “Untitled Star Trek Sequel,” as well as an earlier draft of the “Flash Gordon” feature film, and the upcoming “Jungle Cruise” film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. To the casual or super fan observer, there is still nothing visibly tangible under the duo's belts. But they have written plenty of unproduced screenplays and have been writing together since their high school debate club days in 1997. While fans may not know Payne and McKay yet, people in the industry do—and Amazon found their work strong enough to be put in charge of such a major property.

J.A. Bayona “The Orphanage,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” will serve as director for the series' first two episodes. He'll also be credited as an executive producer, alongside his producing partner Belén Atienza.

In addition to Payne, McKay, Bayona, and Atienza, here is the rest of the creative team behind Amazon's “The Lord of the Rings”: executive producers Lindsey Weber “10 Cloverfield Lane”, Bruce Richmond “Game of Thrones”, Gene Kelly “Boardwalk Empire”, and Amazon's former head of genre programming Sharon Tal Yguado; writer and executive producer Gennifer Hutchison “Breaking Bad”; writer and executive producer Jason Cahill “The Sopranos”; writer and 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 and co-producer Helen Shang “Hannibal”; and writing consultant Glenise Mullins.

According to Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke, the writers room is “working under lock and key: “They're already generating really exciting material. They're down in Santa Monica. You have to go through such clearance, and they have all their windows taped closed. And there's a security guard that sits outside, and you have to have a fingerprint to get in there, because their whole board is up on a thing of the whole season.”

‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation
Photo : Grant Pollard/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

What About the Cast?

In July, Variety reported that Australian actress Markella Kavenagh “Picnic at Hanging Rock” was in talks for the series, as a character named Tyra. No other details were given about the character, and neither Amazon nor Kavenagh's reps actually commented on the news. In fact, Kavenagh is listed as “rumored” on IMDB.

The same was true of the news of Will Poulter's “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” “Midsommar” casting back in September. So it seems it's not just the writers room that's under lock and key when it comes to this series.

October saw Collider report another significant-yet-secretive casting choice for the series, in English actor Maxim Baldry “Years and Years” and, later that month, Deadline report the casting of Joseph Mawle. Deadline added, “No details about the characters are being revealed but it is believed that English actor Mawle will play the series' lead villain, Oren, opposite Poulter's young hero Beldor and female lead Tyra Kavenagh.”

‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation
Photo : Moviestore/Shutterstock

It Will Be Filmed in the Shire You Know and Love

Like Peter Jackson's “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies, filming for Amazon's “The Lord of the Rings” will take place in New Zealand. Amazon announced this back in September. The official announcement came in September. As showrunners Payne and McKay wrote in a statement: “As we searched for the location in which we could bring to life the primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle-earth, we knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains, that also is a home to world-class sets, studios, and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff. And we're happy that we are now able to officially confirm New Zealand as our home for our series based on stories from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.”

However, the sets will be original to this series, so maybe don't expect it to have quite the same look as the Peter Jackson movies.

‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation
Photo : Jordan Strauss/January Images/Shutterstock

Production is Coming

While no official start date for production or release date for the series has been announced, one of the other requirements of that $250 million rights deal was that Amazon must begin production on the show within two years of the deal.

As the series announcement came in November 2017, that means production should reasonably start sometime in November 2019.

With news of the official Season 2 renewal—before filming has even begun—Deadline reported that the series will go on a 4-5 month hiatus after filming its first two episodes, in order to map out and write the bulk of the second season.

Source: Indiewire

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOWTHE LORD OF THE RINGSLORD OF THE RINGSTHE RINGAMAZON
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‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation
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