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 25 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 (£180m) 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 are the latest updates?
- Benjamin Walker says he has no idea when filming will end
- The Witcher director Charlotte Brändström has joined the series for two episodes
- The show could feature adult content, following the hire of an intimacy coordinator
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 to begin production on the show within two years – filming got under way in November 2019. 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 The Lord of the Rings. Despite all the chatter about it, the deal just closed a month ago.”
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.”
Actor Benjamin Walker said he has no idea when filming on the first season will end. He told IndieWire: “It is a bit nebulous at this point. We’ve been here a long time and they’ll let us go when they’re done with us.”
Amazon have already renewed the show for a second season, according to Deadline who also spoke to Head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke. The same writers have reportedly been assembled to start work on the new season, even though Season 1 is still filming.
What’s the budget for the Lord of the Rings TV series?
Amazon Studios signed a reported $250m rights contract with the author’s estate, publisher HarperCollins and New Line Cinema to produce a multi-season show for television. The Hollywood Reporter have reported that the budget is set to be at least $1 billion (£720m) – the biggest in television history.
Are they going to be filming in New Zealand again?
Yes! It’s now been officially confirmed by showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, who said that New Zealand was the perfect place to reflect the “primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle Earth”.
“We knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forest and mountains, that is also a home to world-class sets, studios and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff,” they wrote. “And we’re happy to officially confirm New Zealand as our home for our series.”
“We are grateful to the people and the government of New Zealand and especially Auckland for supporting us during this pre-production phrase. The abundant measure of Kiwi hospitality with which they have welcomed us has already made us feel right at home, and we are looking forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come.”
However, it’s bad news for Scotland, where it was speculated that filming could take place. According to The Guardian, “uncertainty over Brexit saw [Scotland] fall out of favour with Amazon”.
Production shut down in March 2020 in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but Deadline has confirmed that filming has resumed, with the first two episodes now in the bag.
Is there a trailer for the Lord of the Rings TV series yet?
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.
Who’s making the Lord of the Rings television series?
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).
Who’s going to be in the cast for the Lord of the Rings TV show?
Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” series officially announced its main cast after months of anticipation.
Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur and Nazanin Boniadi are among the leading stars, and they’ll be supported by the likes of Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith and Charlie Vickers.
Maxim Baldry (Years and Years, Doctor Who) was, as of March 2020, confirmed by Deadline as starring in a lead role.
“After undertaking an extensive global search, we are delighted finally to reveal the first group of brilliant performers who will take part in Amazon’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ series,” said showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay.
“These exceptionally talented women and men are more than just our actors: they are the newest members of an ever-expanding creative family that is now working tirelessly to bring Middle-earth to life anew for fans and audiences worldwide.”
Australian actress Markella Kavenagh was previously confirmed to take on the role of Tyra – an entirely new character who is entirely separate from JRR Tolkien’s beloved books – while Midsommar star Will Poulter is also on board.
Morfydd Clark (Crawl, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) was also confirmed to portray a younger version of the royal Elf Galadriel, played by Cate Blanchett in the original trilogy.
But Australian actor Tom Budge who was originally cast, has confirmed that he is departing the series after claiming that Amazon “has decided to go in another direction with the character”.
“Hello loves, it is with great sadness that I am writing to tell you I have departed Amazon’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ television series,” Budge wrote on his Instagram page. “After recently seeing the first episodes shot over the last year Amazon has decided to go in another direction with the character I was portraying. I must thank the creative team for their encouragement towards trying something that I believed was new, exciting and beautiful.”
Further cast members Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Ian Blackburn, Kip Chapman, Anthony Crum, Maxine Cunliffe, Trystan Gravelle, Thusitha Jayasundera, Fabian McCallum and Lenny Henry were announced in December 2020.
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.”
Not to be a stick in your spokes, Ian, but might it be time to let someone else have a go? That’s what New Zealand-born actress Robyn Malcom, who played a female Rider of Rohan in Peter Jackson’s 2002 movie The Two Towers, believes should happen.
Speaking to Stuff, Malcolm said: “Those old legends, those old mythical stories, they’re so based within a patriarchal landscape.
“Why not look at the magic of a matrilineal world, where the magical powerhouses are women?”
The little-known actor went on to argue that “a big star” was probably needed for the role”, but “then of course you go to Dame Judi [Dench] or Eileen Atkins or Maggie Smith.”
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.”
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.”
Orlando Bloom, who played Legolas, doesn’t think that he’ll be appearing in the forthcoming series. Addressing the possibility of appearing in the follow-up to the blockbuster film franchise, while he admitted that he thinks it’s “great” that the streaming service is taking on the series, he doesn’t think he’ll be asked to appear in it.
“I don’t know how they’re going to approach it. I haven’t had any conversations about that but I felt like I have done everything that…” he trailed off, before adding that while reappearing in Jackson’s The Hobbit films made a lot of sense to him, he’s not so sure about coming back again.
“I like to think of myself as ageless but…I don’t know where I would fit in that world, really,” he admitted. “If you’re saying there’s Legolas, they’ve probably got a 19 year-old kid who’s ready to go.”
In June 2020, a New Zealand talent agency announced it was seeking urgent applications from people they euphemistically deemed “funky looking” in an unusual job advertisement.
The Facebook post by the casting agency in Auckland listed facial burns, “long skinny” limbs, acne scars, deep cheekbones, facial lines, missing bones, large eyes, and skinny faces as desirable qualities.
It did not mention a particular role, and an earlier image was removed that featured a range of police mugshots to illustrate the look the agency is seeking.
While the booker who wrote the post was unable to confirm to The Guardian that she was selecting applicants for the Lord Of The Rings series, an earlier version of the Facebook post described her as “lead booker submitting talent for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings” and included the hashtag #lordoftheringsonprime.
The mention of Lord Of The Rings was later edited out of the post.
Is Peter Jackson going to be involved?
Peter Jackson confirmed 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.”
So who are going to be the showrunners?
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.”
Filmmaker J.A. Bayona will be directing the first two episodes, and will also serve as an executive producer on the show alongside his partner Belén Atienza.
British Chinese director Wayne Che Yip has joined the show’s creative team as director and co-executive producer also, continuing Bayona’s work after the first two episodes.
Charlotte Brändström will be directing two episodes of the season. The Swedish-French director has helmed episodes of The Witcher and Jupiter’s Legacy. Her credits also include The Man In The High Castle and Outlander.
When will the Lord of the Rings TV show be set?
Amazon have confirmed that the show will be set in the Age of Númenor (or the Second Age). This is the 3,441 year period ahead of The Fellowship of the Ring. This was confirmed through maps Amazon posted on Twitter. These went live in February and March 2020 after Amazon tweeted “Welcome to the Second Age”, confirming the time period the television show will be set in.
Welcome to the Second Age: https://t.co/Tamd0oRgTw
— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) March 7, 2019
Obviously this is a huge amount of time, so we’ll have to wait and see as to which part of this 3,441 year period it’ll be set in.
What will the plot of the Lord of the Rings TV show be?
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.
— TheOneRing.net (@theoneringnet) May 16, 2018
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.
A recent casting callout suggests the show could feature adult content, as fansite TheOneRing.net reports New Zealand intimacy coordinator Jennifer Ward-Lealand has been hired on an Amazon project, and an ad looking for actors “comfortable with nudity” was posted by BGT talent agency.
Amazon Prime Video is yet to confirm or deny these reports.
However, a “spy report” that has been obtained by TheOneRing has alleged that nudity but no sex will feature in the series.
“Nudity is sparse and not sexualised,” read the report. “This artistic choice represents very dark thematic material suggestive of concentration camp-type visuals of victims, a harrowing portrayal of the corruption of the Elves by dark powers to ultimately become Orcs.”
What are these Amazon Middle-earth maps?
The Twitter account for the show had been unused since it was set up in 2018, but in January 2020 it started to tweet links to a series of online maps of Middle-earth. Starting with a Tolkein quote (“I wisely started with a map”), they then started to post the images of maps alongside lines of the Ring Verse – a short verse that explains the origins of the ring, and links to where you can explore the maps online. There’s no sign yet what these maps will mean, and how they’ll relate to the show
“I wisely started with a map” — J.R.R. Tolkien
— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) February 13, 2019
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, pic.twitter.com/Btk2CRsQI2
— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) February 18, 2019
Are there any photos from set?
Yes! In March 2020 director J.A. Bayona shared a behind-the-scenes photo from a night shoot where the lighting created a special effect.
“The light from our set accidentally cast on top of a tree and it made it look like a strange cloud from a Miyazaki movie,” Bayona wrote beneath the photo shared on Instagram.
Additional words: Sam Moore and Charlotte Krol