One show to rule them all
When Peter Jackson first started planning The Lord Of The Rings films back in 1995, he couldn’t have imagined how it would dominate his life. And now, six movies, 21 Oscars and 23 years later, we’re heading back to Middle Earth for a brand new Lord of the Rings TV series.
Amazon Studios are the lucky lot who’ve been tasked with recreating J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary magic for the small screen, with the company signing a reported $250m rights contract in November 2017 with the author’s estate, publisher HarperCollins and New Line Cinema to produce a multi-season show for television.
Here’s everything we know so far about the forthcoming Lord of the Rings TV series.
What’s the release date for the Lord of the Rings TV series?
While there’s been no official word yet on an expected release date, Amazon are required by the aforementioned $250m deal to begin production on the show within two years – so that means that the show will be on the way by November 2019 at least. A recent update from Amazon exec. Jennifer Salke gave some more detail. “All of us would love a big, addictive show that is executed at the top of its game.” Salke suggested. “We’re really excited about Lord of the Rings. Despite all the chatter about it, the deal just closed a month ago. We’ve been talking to writers. We have an estate that’s very active. I’ve spent three hours with Simon Tolkien. There’s a lot of moving parts with it. We’ll have some game plan to move forward with very soon.”
Salke added: “It’ll be in production in two years; [but] 2021 is the hope.” Salke explained. “But there are other people who wish it was 2020.”
Who’s making it?
Amazon, Netflix and HBO had all been in talks for acquiring the rights, but in the end only one triumphed.
Amazon Studios will produce the series in co-operation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, book publishers HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema (a division of Warner Bros., which made the original Oscar-winning movies with Peter Jackson). The studios will allocate a reported $1bn budget for the show – the biggest in television history.
It’s interesting that Tolkien’s estate will be so closely involved with production. In recent years, they were partly responsible for delaying Jackson’s initial idea for a set of Hobbit films directed by Guillermo Del Toro. They eventually settled the matter and the critically-reviled trilogy went ahead – but without Del Toro, who departed the project in 2010.
But, just as An Unexpected Journey hit cinemas in 2012, the Tolkien estate sued Warner Bros., citing copyright infringement and breach of contract over video games and other digital merchandising. The $80m law suit was settled in July, but the problems left a bad taste in the mouths of everyone involved. Why would they go back into business with New Line so quickly?
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Is Peter Jackson going to be involved?
Despite, Peter Jackson confirming that he is not involved in the series in an interview with French publication Allocine – “I’m not involved at all in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ series…I understand how my name could come up, but there is nothing happening with me on this project.”] Salke, says conversations aren’t over yet, saying Amazon are in ‘amicable’ chats with Peter Jackson about how involved he’d like to be.
Do we know who’s going to be the showrunner?
JD Payne and Patrick McKay will be the two showrunners for the series. They’ve previously worked as writers on ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ and ‘Star Trek 4’. In a statement, the duo have said: “The rich world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is filled with majesty and heart, wisdom and complexity,” adding: “We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Amazon to bring it to life anew. We feel like Frodo, setting out from the Shire, with a great responsibility in our care — it is the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.”
How many seasons will there be?
Amazon has committed to producing five seasons of a Lord of the Rings TV series as part of its $250 million rights deal.
Any cast announcements?
We’re not at that stage yet. But Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf in the original trilogy, has expressed interest in reprising his role. Asked by Graham Norton on his BBC radio show if it was going to be annoying to have another pointy-hatted wizard around, McKellen replied: “What do you mean, another Gandalf?”
He added: “I haven’t said yes because I haven’t been asked. But are you suggesting that someone else is going to play it? Gandalf is over 7000 years old, so I’m not too old.”
Meanwhile, actor John Rhys Davies, who played feisty dwarf Gimli, has criticised Amazon for making a series so soon after Jackson’s original.
“It’s not about doing it better, it’s about making more money, that’s all,” Rhys-Davies told Den of Geek. “If they think they can make more money, then they will.”
Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the movies, has said he doesn’t expect to be cast in the upcoming TV version. He told ScreenCrush: “It sounds incredible, but I don’t see myself being any part of it.
“I think it’s a completely fresh, new approach to it all, so I don’t think I’d imagine myself to be anywhere near it really,” he added.
However, Serkis’ co-star Sean Astin was more positive about the prospect of reprising his role as Samwise Gamgee.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, he said: “I’ve been saying for 15 years…maybe like 12 years after Lord of the Rings came out, that it would get remade. And people always said, ‘Oh no, it’ll never get remade! It’s a classic! They could never top it!’ And I’m like, ‘No, it’ll get remade. It’s a massive story! The characters are so beloved.”
What will the plot be about?
The script hasn’t even been assigned yet, but there’s several avenues the writers could go down. We know the series will be a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings films, so that means anything prior to Bilbo handing over the ring to Frodo is fair game. That leaves them with a mere few thousand years of folklore to work with…
TheOneRing is reporting that the opening season of the show is going to be focused on a young Aragorn. The character was already 87-years-old by the time The Fellowship Of The Ring began, so there’s a huge chunk of his childhood that could be utilised.
Astin theorised about what might be included in the future series’ plot: “The Mines of Moria are referred to a lot in Lord of the Rings. And I guess in The Hobbit trilogy, you spent a little bit of time with them, but the culture of the dwarves in the mines… I would love to see like five hours of that.”
There’s also numerous video game plots which have been hugely successful with younger fans – the multi-million selling Shadow Of Mordor is a good example.
The point is: there are possibly hundreds of potential plot lines available for the Lord of the Rings TV series that would require few big changes.
Additional words: Sam Moore