One does not simply wait for Amazon's Lord of the Rings series to premiere. It's never too soon to get hyped for Amazon's outrageously expensive LOTR prequel series, based on author J.R.R. Tolkien's work before The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. There's a lot of room for interpretation, and currently a lot of room for speculation on what exactly the series will cover. So finish your second breakfast and Strider on over to these early news morsels, then bookmark this beast for more updates for the adventure ahead. Forth Eorlingas!
When Will The Lord Of The Rings Series Premiere On Amazon?
In November 2017, Amazon Studios defeated Netflix for a $250 million deal with the Tolkien estate, New Line Cinema, and HarperCollins to create this series. One of the clauses in the deal reportedly stipulated that production had to begin within two years. In June 2018, Amazon Studios boss Jennifer Salke told THR the series would indeed be in production within two years, and airing in 2021 was "the hope." She added that there were others who wished it would premiere in 2020.
Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey is one of the experts working with Amazon on the series, and he gave an update in summer 2019, saying that as far as he knew, the plan was to start airing the Lord of the Rings series in 2021. He wasn't sure of the filming timetable at that point, but he didn't think production would be ready to start in 2019.
How Many Seasons Will The Lord Of The Rings Series Have?
Amazon Studios' deal included a five-season commitment, plus a potential spinoff series. That's why the full price tag -- including production budgets, casting, writers, visual effects, and more -- is estimated to be around $1 billion, making this the most expensive series of all time. Better be worth it!
What Will Amazon's The Lord Of The Rings Series Be About?
We already knew Amazon's Lord of the Rings series would be set before the events of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit -- which were recently brought to the big screen through Peter Jackson's movies. But the LOTR on Prime Twitter feed updated with the specific timeframe for the series: The Second Age.
Peter Jackson's movies covered the Third Age, so all of that is out. In fact, Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey told Deutsche Tolkien the First and Third Ages are completely off-limits. He said the Tolkien estate is keeping a careful eye on the series as it develops, and it has veto over everything that concerns Tolkien.
That said, The Second Age lasted for 3,441 years, and there's A LOT that can be covered from that time period across five seasons and a spinoff. J.R.R. Tolkien's Second Age covered the rise of Suaron in Middle-earth, the rise and fall of Númenor, and the creation of the Rings of Power. The Second Age ended with Sauron's defeat by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men after the downfall of Númenor.
Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey gave a rough outline of what Amazon's Lord of the Rings series could cover, and where there's room for imagination:
Amazon has a relatively free hand when it comes to adding something, since, as I said, very few details are known about this time span. The Tolkien estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenorean expedition, [and] returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenoreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same. 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. But it must not contradict anything which Tolkien did say.
That’s what Amazon has to watch out for, Tom Shippey continued. Everything in the Lord of the Rings series has to fit with the Tolkien canon. But it is pretty exciting to realize how much Amazon can add between the lines to bring The Second Age to life.
What Characters Will Be In Amazon's Lord Of The Rings Series?
There was an early rumor that this series could start by following a young Aragorn. But Aragorn was born in The Third Age, so that would be out. Who is in? Well, Galadriel's voice-over in Fellowship of the Ring was an update of the end of the Second Age. We've already speculated about actors who could play Sauron in this prequel. What about Galadriel? Could Cate Blanchett return (again)? If not, maybe they'll recast at some point. Same for Hugo Weaving as Elrond, since he was also there in The Second Age.
Back in June 2018, Amazon Studios boss Jennifer Salke gave Deadline a mini tease on potential characters:
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.
She didn't name anyone, but that's an intriguing hint. Orlando Bloom seemed to rule himself out as Legolas, figuring he's too old now, but Amazon could certainly twist his arm, if the story decided to include him.
Markella Kavenagh (Tyra)
In July 2019, Variety revealed the first star cast for Amazon's Lord of the Rings series. Markella Kavenagh was said to be in talks for a character named Tyra. There were no details shared at the time about Tyra, or how big the role might be. Markella Kavenagh is probably best known from the Australian series Romper Stomper, plus Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Cry. We obviously have a lot to learn about her role in LOTR on Prime, so stay tuned.
UPDATE: Sad news! Will Poulter had to drop out from a scheduling conflict when Lord of the Rings when on an extended break to finish up scripts. Original post: According to Variety, Will Poulter has nabbed one of the leading roles in the Lord of the Rings series. The site did not have details on his role, as of September 2019, other than to say it was one of the leads. It's exciting to know the series is finally casting more people, though. Poulter is known from Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and the comedy We're the Millers, plus for Midsommar, Maze Runner, and almost playing Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the IT movies.
What Do We Know About Lord Of The Rings Season 1?
Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey mentioned that "there's supposed to be 20 episodes for the first season." So far, that's all we've heard -- other than knowing the entire series will cover stories from The Second Age. Still, 20 episodes for one season is huge for a streamer. That's like a classic network TV show episode order. Streamers have been downsizing from the early Netflix staple of 13 episodes to 10 or even 8 episodes a season more often. If 20 episodes holds, that's certainly ambitious, and in keeping with the epic storytelling potential of Amazon's own Game of Thrones.
Who Are The Filmmakers Behind Amazon's Lord Of The Rings Series?
Speaking of Game of Thrones, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has not been shy about saying he wants his streaming service to have its own Game of Thrones, and it's clear he's using a similar playbook for Lord of the Rings. Like HBO's GOT, Amazon's LOTR is being run by a team of two, in this case the writing/showrunning team of JD Payne and Patrick McKay.
Also, LOTR nabbed Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman as a consultant, after HBO passed on Cogman's Game of Thrones prequel idea. J.A. Bayona also signed on as an executive producer of Amazon's Lord of the Rings series, and he'll also direct two episodes. He excels at fantasy and horror -- from The Orphanage to A Monster Calls and Penny Dreadful. Amazon revealed its full creative team through a full "Fellowship" video:
Lord of the Rings filmmaker Peter Jackson was not included in that video. So, will he be part of Amazon's "Fellowship"? On that note...
Will Peter Jackson Be Involved In Amazon's Lord Of The Rings Series?
That's the billion dollar question. As of August 2019, it's still unanswered -- or answered in tricksy ways Gollum might appreciate. THR's initial report about the Amazon deal noted that Peter Jackson's attorney Peter Nelson was not part of the 2017 rights negotiations, but Nelson did help start a dialogue between the director and the streamer. Jackson was reportedly invited to join the team as an executive producer, with his level of involvement completely up to him. In June 2018, Amazon's Jennifer Salke told Deadline they were right in the middle of Peter Jackson conversations:
It’s like, how much do you want to be involved, how little? I know there’s been some discussion, and he’s even said some things, but as far as I’m aware, the latest is that we’re just in a conversation with him about how much or how little he would be involved.
So, they want him, but he's a busy guy and it's not clear how keen he'd be to jump in on the sidelines of someone else's series. In December 2018, about six months after Jennifer Salke's "conversation" update, Peter Jackson told Metro.co.uk he was planning on checking out the Amazon series' materials:
I don’t have thoughts on it because I haven’t seen [anything]. I think they’re going to send us some scripts to see if we can help them along. I wish them all the best and if we can help them we certainly will try.
Lord of the Rings screenwriter and producer Philippa Boyens added her own take:
Fresh eyes on that story is such a good thing to do. So I’m excited to see what they come up with.
Jennifer Salke had said they might film in New Zealand, where The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings also filmed. Since the deal also includes New Line, Amazon is reportedly allowed to use footage from Peter Jackson's films, in the event it makes sense. The films' story is from The Third Age, but some of those familiar locations could still appear in the TV series' Second Age, and it does sound like this is all going to be part of the same cinematic universe, so to speak.
It's early days for Amazon's Lord of the Rings series, with only the creative team and one unconfirmed star announced for the prequel show. Stay tuned for more updates as Amazon announces more cast members, filming dates, and -- eventually -- a Season 1 trailer and streaming premiere date.