Almost two decades after Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy changed cinema forever, Amazon has begun work on a Lord of the Rings TV show. While there may be no word on a release date, there's more than enough information out there – including some excellent casting news and news of a filming location – to get Tolkien fans extremely excited for what's to come.
The teases for the Lord of the Rings TV show began when a series of maps of Middle Earth were posted onto an official Twitter account, confirming the show will take place during the Second Age – a time period that ended with the first downfall of Sauron (as seen in the prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring). Below, there's more on what the Second Age could mean for the Lord of the Rings TV show, who has been cast in the show, as well as everything else we know!
Lord of the Rings TV show's release date
The Lord of the Rings TV show currently has no release date. However, we do know that Amazon has to start production on the show by 2020, or else their deal with the Tolkien Estate and New Line (which cost Amazon a reported $250 million) is rendered null and void.
Reading between the (legal) lines, we can therefore expect to see the Lord of the Rings TV show on our screens by 2021. There’s potentially scope for a crossover with the movies, too, as Warner Bros executives were brought in to finalise the deal thanks to that very possibility.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Amazon Studios Head Jennifer Salke corroborated this timeline, explaining: “It’ll be in production in two years. 2021 is the hope. But there are other people who wish it was 2020.”
The Lord of the Rings writers and directors
Writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay will act as co-showrunners on the new series. Speaking of their appointment, they said in a joint statement: “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.”
Joining them as a consultant is Bryan Cogman, who is best known for rising from as assistant on Game of Thrones to writing some of the HBO fantasy series' best episodes. Also announced to be writing episodes for the Lord of the Rings TV show are Gennifer Hutchinson (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul), Helen Shang (Hannibal), Justin Dohle (Stranger Things), and Stephany Folsom (Toy Story 4).
Meanwhile, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director JA Bayona will helm the first two episodes of the first season (Amazon have signed on to produce five seasons) and will act as an executive producer. There's also some other extremely exciting behind-the-camera, including costume designer Kate Hawley (Edge of Tomorrow, Suicide Squad), production designer Rick Heinrichs (Sleepy Hollow, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), visual effects supervisor Jason Smith (Super 8, Avengers), and Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey. Concept artist John Howe, who worked on Jackson's trilogy, will also have the same position on the show.
“This team is our Fellowship, assembled from around the world, all walking the road together to try and accomplish something far greater than any of us could on our own,” McKay and Payne said in a statement. And what an incredible fellowship, indeed.
Lord of the Rings TV Show cast
While there's been no official announcement, Variety has reported that Markella Kavenagh, an Australian actress best known for starring in the Romper Stomper TV show, has joined the cast as a lead. Details regarding her character are being kept very under wraps, though she has name: Tyra.
Will Poulter, best known for appearing in the horror movie Midsommar and the choose-your-own adventure episode of Black Mirror, Bandersnatch, has joined the cast in an unknown role. Variety, who revealed the news, offer no other details. Amazon has yet to confirm any casting announcements.
As we await further casting, Sir Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf in the three Lord of the Rings movies and The Hobbit trilogy, has said that no other actor could play the wise wizard. “What do you mean, another Gandalf?,” McKellen told Graham Norton when asked whether someone could take over the role. “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 7,000 years old, so I’m not too old.”
The Lord of the Rings TV show setting
Welcome to the Second Age: https://t.co/Tamd0oRgTwMarch 7, 2019
Despite theories to the contrary, looks like the Lord of the Rings TV show takes place in the Second Age - counting out a potential series centred on a young Aragon (Strider was not born until the Third Age).
The setting was revealed when Amazon posted an image of the island of Númenor; home to Aragorn's people, the Númenoreans (who are, to massively simplify things, humans with a very long lifespan). They lived there until their home was destroyed, making it a ruin by the events of the main Lord of the Rings story. Whether the show is set on Númenor remains to be seen, but fans certainly are eager to get an insight into the world that came before the movies, with many hoping to see how Sauron rose to power. Perhaps we will even see the forging of the One Ring (which happened in the year 1600 - the Second Age lasted 3441 years).
Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey has also revealed that Amazon had no choice in the matter when it came to the Lord of the Rings TV show's setting. Despite the streaming service spending $250 million on the rights to Tolkien's work, the author's estate have made it mandatory that the show does not cross over with the events of Jackson's movies - Lord of the Rings or Hobbit.
“It's a bit of a minefield – you have to tread very carefully”, he told Deutsche Tolkien. “The Tolkien estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenórean expedition, is returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenóreans 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. It must be canonical, it is impossible to change the boundaries which Tolkien has created. It is necessary to remain ‘Tolkienian’.”
The Tolkien estate have denied the claims, though Amazon has yet to officially say anything on the matter.
Amazon has confirmed that the Lord of the Rings TV show will be filmed in New Zealand; the country that provided the astonishing setting of Peter Jackson's trilogy. Showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay said of bringing the series back to New Zealand: “As we searched for the location in which we could bring to life the primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle-earth, we knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains, that also is a home to world-class sets, studios, and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff." Expect lots of aerial shots of snowy peaks, rolling hillsides, and craggy cliff faces.
The Lord of Rings TV show won't involve Peter Jackson
Sadly, Peter Jackson, who directed the film trilogy, has confirmed he is not involved with Amazon's TV adaptation. He said at a New York Comic Con panel last year that he's "kind of looking forward to it" as a viewer instead. "I was a guy who didn't get to see the Lord of the Rings like everybody else because I had to make it", Jackson explained, "so I'm looking forward to seeing somebody else's take on the Tolkien world."
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