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Amazon’s trip to Middle Earth is coming.
The retail giant and streamer has already spent more than two years clearing the way for its highly anticipated Lord of the Rings live-action TV series.
Picked up in a massive $250 million global rights deal, the TV take on J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved franchise is expected to be on the air in 2021, though a formal premiere date has not yet been determined. Season one will span eight episodes, with production starting in February 2020.
The LOTR series could wind up being the first $1 billion TV show once casting, production and VFX are completed. Below, The Hollywood Reporter offers a one-stop guide with all the latest details. Bookmark this page, as it will be updated as more information becomes available.
Amazon announced in November 2017 that it had landed global TV rights to The Lord of the Rings and handed out a multiple-season commitment to the series, which will be produced in-house at Amazon Studios alongside the Tolkien Estate and Trust, publisher HarperCollins and Warner Bros. Entertainment’s New Line Cinema. (The series was technically renewed for a second season, which is basically a formality.) Sources estimate Amazon’s mega-deal for LOTR is to be for five seasons — plus a potential spinoff. Insiders put the price tag for global rights alone to the series at $250 million and believe once things like budgets, casting and visual effects are factored in, the price tag could hit $1 billion. (Yes, $1 billion for a TV show.)
Set in Middle-earth, the television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. Here’s Amazon’s formal description of the series: It brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.
Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones, The King’s Man) is replacing Poulter in the cast as one of the lead roles.
Owain Arthur (Kingdom)
Nazanin Boniadi (Counterpart, Hotel Mumbai, How I Met Your Mother)
Tom Budge (The Pacific)
Ismael Cruz Cordova (The Catch, Ray Donovan)
Tyroe Muhafidin (newcomer)
Sophia Nomvete (Dexter)
Megan Richards (Wanderlust)
Dylan Smith (I Am the Night)
Charlie Vickers (Medici)
Daniel Weyman (Gentleman Jack, Treadstone)
Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones) will play Oren, the central villain in the series.
Markella Kavenagh, an Australian actress whose credits include Picnic at Hanging Rock, is the female lead, playing a character named Tyra. She was the first person cast in the show.
Ema Horvath (Like.Share.Follow., Don’t Look Deeper) will be a series regular.
Morfydd Clark (His Dark Materials) will play a young Galadriel, the character portrayed by Cate Blanchett in Peter Jackson’s LOTR and The Hobbit features.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Power, The Accountant)
Maxim Baldry (Years and Years)
Kip Chapman (Top of the Lake)
Anthony Crum (The Wilds)
Maxine Cunliffe (Power Rangers Megaforce)
Trystan Gravelle (The Terror)
Sir Lenny Henry (Broadchurch)
Thusitha Jayasundera (Broadchurch)
Fabian McCallum (You, Me & The Apocalypse)
Simon Merrells (Knightfall)
Geoff Morrell (Rake)
Peter Mullan (Westworld)
Lloyd Owen (Viva Laughlin)
Augustus Prew (The Morning Show)
Peter Tait (Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)
Alex Tarrant (Filthy Rich)
Leon Wadham (Power Rangers Beast Morphers)
Benjamin Walker (Jessica Jones)
Sara Zwangobani (Home and Away)
Charles Edwards (The Crown)
Will Fletcher (The Girl Who Fell)
Amelie Child-Villiers (The Machine)
THE CREATIVE TEAM
Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic fantasy novels, J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay (Star Trek 4) serve as showrunners on the series. J.A. Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is set to direct the first two episodes and will executive produce, along with his producing partner Belén Atienza. British Chinese director Wayne Che Yip (Doctor Who, The Wheel of Time) will direct four episodes and also serve as a co-executive producer. Charlotte Brandstrom will also direct. Writers Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad), Jason Cahill (The Sopranos) and Justin Doble (Stranger Things) are also EPs, as are Lindsey Weber (10 Cloverfield Lane), Bruce Richmond (Game of Thrones), Gene Kelly (Boardwalk Empire) and former Amazon head of genre Sharon Tal Yguado. Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) was a consulting producer on the series. Cogman, who served as a consulting producer on season one, has departed to focus on development. EP Gene Kelly has also departed the series after working on scripts for season one.
Production on the series is slated to begin in 2020. The series will shoot in New Zealand. Pre-production started in September 2019, with production slated to begin in the coming months in Auckland. As of late June 2021, production on season one was still under way in New Zealand. Season one is rumored to cost north of $465 million, an eye-popping sum that doesn’t even account for other costs including marketing and promotion.
A formal premiere date and time frame has not been revealed. However, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke told The Hollywood Reporter that the “hope” is that Lord of the Rings will be on the air in 2021. As part of the LOTR deal, the show must be in production within two years of the original pact. That, of course, was before the novel coronavirus pandemic halted film and TV productions across the globe. The expectation now is that LOTR will launch possibly in early 2022.
WHAT ABOUT PETER JACKSON?
The New Zealand-based man behind the Lord of the Rings feature film trilogy has not signed on to the Amazon TV series. As of June 2018, Salke said Amazon was “in conversations with him that I think are very amicable about how much involvement he wants and what kind. We haven’t figured out exactly what that is yet. He may say he is involved or he’s not involved. We’re still very much in conversation with him about what kind of involvement he would propose.”
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