14 years after Return of the King released in cinemas to box office success and showers of Oscar noms, Amazon announced that it had bought the rights to Tolkien's fantasy property, and is developing a Lord of the Rings TV show on a $1 billion production budget. In the wake of Peter Jackson's so-so The Hobbit trilogy, this will be good news to Tolkienists who want to see the world of Middle-Earth restored to its former glory in the annuls of pop culture history. But what do we know about Amazon Studio's next big project?
The company paid a whopping $250 million just to purchase the Lord of the Rings property from the Tolkien Estate and New Line Cinema, which gives it the rights to produce five seasons of a new TV show, so it clearly values the source material, eliminating any worries that this will be a half-assed botch job. Instead, everything we've heard about the Lord of the Rings TV show so far has been as sweet as Elvish music to the ears, and you can read all about it right here.
When is the Lord of the Rings TV show's release date?
It's unclear, but the good news for impatient viewers is that Amazon has to start production on the show by 2020, or their deal 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 also corroborated with this timeline, explaining that “It’ll be in production in two years: 2021 is the hope. But there are other people who wish it was 2020.” Indeed, the project's two lead writers/showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay have already been hired, and Salke promises a concrete game plan to be announced very soon.
The Lord of Rings TV show could bring back Peter Jackson and return to New Zealand
Salke also spoke to Deadline this year, with more hopeful promises about the company's plans for the Lord of the Rings TV show, and the interviewers were even able to squeeze a few interesting tidbits out of her in the process. Salke confirmed there'd be just one Lord of the Rings TV series (for the moment). So, no Game of Thrones prequel-style pilots piling up in the near-future. She was also keen to point out that they're not remaking the movies, but they will include "characters you love" (more on that in a moment).
In addition to that, we might see the loving hand of Peter Jackson grace the Tokienverse once more. Salke confirms there's been talks - and they might even be heading back to New Zealand to film. Because New Zealand is basically Middle-Earth at this point. And as for for where, when, and with whom the Lord of the Rings show could take place? Well...
The Lord of the Ring's first season will reportedly focus on young Aragorn
According to recent reports from Lord of the Rings enthusiast site TheOneRing.net, multiple sources at Amazon Studios have confirmed that the first season of the show will chronicle the exploits of a young Aragon, before he ever met Frodo and co in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Aragorn’s life before his mysterious appearance at The Prancing Pony is a great unknown. We hear that he’s ‘a ranger’ and we know that his adventures are constantly linked to Elrond’s group of elves, where he eventually fell in love with Arwen. There’s enough structure here to make Aragorn’s story relatable to Rings fans, but heaps of creative license to work with: he’s already had a long life before the movies, he seems to know all the evil creatures they face, and there’s a pre-built romance ready to explore. And, let’s face it, everyone loves a handsome rogue.
The casting of Aragorn will be key, and most rugged, beardy actors have already appeared in Game of Thrones. If you’re looking for a bit of a star casting, someone like Alex Pettyfer or Nicholas Hoult could probably carry off a young Viggo Mortensen. Crucially, neither have been in Thrones.