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On Monday night, Middle-earth returned to the big screen at the world premiere of Amazon’s long-awaited prequel series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. At Amazon Prime Video’s Culver Studios headquarters, the cast and creators of the show gathered for the kickoff of the most expensive television show in small-screen history.
With an impressive price tag of $1 billion for five seasons, the first season alone cost $465 million. It’s an ambitious undertaking, perhaps one that is necessary, given the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy adaptation by Peter Jackson in the early 2000s.
“I remember when the Lord of the Rings TV show was first mentioned, people’s immediate reactions were, ‘Why are they remaking the movie?’, right?” said Charles Edwards, who stars as Celebrimbor in the series. “This is totally separate, as I’m sure everybody knows by now. This is the Second Age and it’s untapped material, but also sketched material. Nothing is set in stone, but there’s plenty of scope to just rummage around the dressing box a little bit and see what you can pull out.”
Despite the many comparisons to the existing and beloved Jackson trilogy, the showrunners behind The Rings of Power were careful to steer clear of what’s already been done before in adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s work.
“I would say we’re enormous admirers of Peter’s films,” said co-showrunner and executive producer Patrick McKay. “We were there opening night for each movie because they’re really wonderful and there’s so much that they get so beautifully right about what we love about those books. I think if we thought about trying to compete with those or live up to them, we’d flee. Like Monty Python, ‘Run away!’
“I think where we were really coming from is going back to the books and finding new stories and new textures and new flavors that felt true to Tolkien that maybe we hadn’t seen before on the screen,” he continued. “That made it all a little more imaginable, like maybe there’s a way.”
Similarly, the cast had Jackson’s adaptation in mind as more of an inspiration than an intimidation throughout the filming process.
“I couldn’t get those films out of my mind if I tried,” said Morfydd Clark, who plays Galadriel, a role that was originated onscreen by Cate Blanchett in the original trilogy. “It’d have to be like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’ve watched those films so many times, I was 11 when they came out. It was just another great thing to have on top of the hundreds of thousands of Tolkien’s pages, and then these incredible films, to see what these characters would eventually become.”
Composer Bear McCreary, known for his work on other fantasy projects like Outlander and Black Sails, echoed a similar sentiment, as he sought to craft a score that complemented the existing music, but was also distinct in its tone.
“I was very aware of the Jackson films, but I’ve also seen them so many times. How could I write a note of music not being influenced by The Lord of the Rings? Everything I’ve done has been influenced by Lord of the Rings,” said McCreary. “In many ways, it was trying to create a continuity. It’s [also] contrasting. We’re in the Second Age, not the Third. That particular music of the Elves and the Dwarves [in the trilogy] — it’s sad. They are dying people. There’s a sadness and melancholy that’s beautiful to what Howard Shore wrote. In the Second Age [during which Rings of Power is set], those two kingdoms, in particular, are on top. They’re great. We get to see them in all their majesty. So it’s continuous, but it doesn’t actually sound the same.”
Ahead of its September debuton Amazon Prime, the Rings of Power premiere comes just two weeks after the highly anticipated premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon. While it may be a battle of the streamers, the Rings of Power cast said there’s room for everyone in the fantasy space.
“The more, the merrier!” said Sophia Nomvete, who joins the cast as Princess Disa. “People are going to have so much to watch. Get ready, the popcorn industry is gonna go ‘ching!’ There is a place for absolutely all of us, of course. I’m so excited to watch those guys.”
“There’s definitely a lot of support from all the actors,” added Clark of the camaraderie that the Rings of Power cast has with the folks over at House of the Dragon. “There’s a lot demanded of you when you’re in something this big.”
Coming off a rip-roaring panel at Comic Con’s Hall H, the cast is excited for audiences to finally see what they’ve been working on for the past three years. “I hope they take away the amount of love and respect that we’ve shown the source material,” said Benjamin Walker — who plays High King Gil-galad — about die-hard fan reactions to the show. “That anyone who’s nervous that we won’t take care of it just goes, ‘Oh no,’ we’ve not only taken care of it, we’ve put our love into it.”
Added Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who portrays Queen Regent Míriel in the show, “Tolkien’s literature is something that is just so vast and dense, that there’s room for many types of adaptation. We are just one of a few. And I’m sure there will be many more after us.”
In addition to the cast and crew, Michael B. Jordan, Cynthia Erivo, Catherine Hardwicke, Yvette Nicole Brown, Allegra Edwards and Jeff Bezos were in attendance.
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