Production has been cleared to resume in New Zealand on the TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings series almost two decades after Peter Jackson’s Oscars-dominating film franchise first hit cinemas.
Like TV and film productions around the world, The Lord of the Rings series stopped production in March due to the COVID-19 lockdown shutdown. But New Zealand’s success in eliminating the coronavirus means production on the epic fantasy small-screen project can resume now.
Rather than being a straight remake of the Lord of the Rings books, viewers of the TV version can expect a “more Silmarillion” show, according to Frodo Baggins star Elijah Wood.
“From what I understand, the material they are working on exists chronologically further back in history in the lore of Lord of the Rings or Middle Earth than any characters represented in Lord of the Rings,” he recently told IndieWire.
“It sounds more Silmarillion era. Not to get nerdy, but it’s the Second Age of Middle Earth.”
Back in November 2017, Amazon Studios won the rights to produce at least five seasons of a Lord of the Rings TV series. And given the sheer volume of material about Middle Earth that Tolkien produced during his lifetime, Amazon could approach the series from a myriad of directions.
Here’s everything you need to know about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV series, with confirmed cast, including showrunner details and release date. We’ll be updating this page as new information drops.
When is Lord of the Rings released on Amazon Prime Video?
The Lord of the Rings TV series currently doesn’t have a release date.
According to Amazon Studios boss Jennifer Salke, production on the series will begin in 2020 – although with the sheer scale of the drama, it could be a while before it makes it onto screens.
Amazon has also announced shooting will break for four or five months after the first two episodes are filmed to see what’s working.
Filming was halted in March 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak but will continue to resume in New Zealand in late the same year.
How many seasons of Amazon’s Lord of the Rings will there be?
When Amazon acquired the rights to Lord of the Rings for a hefty sum, they made a multi-season commitment that also included a potential spin-off series.
Nonetheless, each season will still need to have formal approval to go-ahead from the Amazon execs, in the unlikely scenario that the series is an utter commercial disaster.
The company seems to have faith that won’t be the case, as it has confirmed a second season already before the first season has even started filming. The series will go on hiatus for about four months before filming begins again.
Where is Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series filmed?
After plenty of speculation, Amazon Studios has confirmed that Middle-Earth will once again be brought to life in the environs of New Zealand, which formed the backdrop for Peter Jackson’s award-winning trilogy.
In a statement, showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay said: “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.
“And we’re happy that we are now able to officially confirm New Zealand as our home for our series based on stories from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
“We are grateful to the people and the government of New Zealand and especially Auckland for supporting us during this pre-production phase. The abundant measure of Kiwi hospitality with which they have welcomed us has already made us feel right at home, and we are looking forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come.”
Good news for Tourism New Zealand, then…
Who’s been cast in Amazon’s Lord of the Rings?
Bandersnatch star Will Poulter was meant to be playing lead character Beldor. However, in December it was reported that Poulter had been forced to withdraw due to a scheduling conflict, with his role instead going to Robert Aramayo – who played young Ned Stark on Game of Thrones.
Poulter recently confirmed to NME.com that he pulled out of the project due to a scheduling conflict created by the pandemic. “I have utmost respect for everyone involved in that project,” he said. “And I have no doubt it’s going to be incredible.”
The full main cast was announced by Amazon in January 2020, with those named above joined by Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, and Daniel Weyman
It has been reported that Joseph Mawle will be playing a villain in the Lord of The Rings series but it hasn’t been confirmed. The actor, who played Benjen Stark in Game of Thrones, has been signed to play anti-hero Oren in the new series.
The news comes after Years and Years star Maxim Baldry had been cast “in a significant role.” It has now been confirmed by Deadline that Baldry will also be playing a lead role.
Reports suggest that Australian actor Markella Kavenagh will be playing a character called Tyra.
Elsewhere, Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf in all six of the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films, has expressed his interest in reprising his role for the TV series — sort of. During an interview on Graham Norton’s BBC radio show back in December 2017, Norton asked whether McKellen would be annoyed to see another actor playing Gandalf.
“What do you mean, another Gandalf?,” McKellen responded, before adding: “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.”
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Meanwhile, Orlando Bloom – who played Legolas in the films – has all but ruled himself out, telling Entertainment Tonight: “I don’t know where I would fit in now in that world. If I think you’re saying [I’d come back] as Legolas, they probably got a 19-year-old kid.”
Likewise Andy Serkis, who told /Film that there are “no plans for [him] to be involved in it at all” as Gollum/Smeagol. “I’m really excited that there’s going to be an Amazon TV version of it,” Serkis said. “I think it’s a world that will continue to be explored.”
What will the Amazon Lord of the Rings TV series be about?
Amazon has revealed that the series will be set during the 3,441-year period before the events of The Fellowship of the Ring. In the JRR Tolkien timeline, this is known as the Age of Númenor, or the Second Age.
This means, unfortunately, that we probably won’t see many of the characters from the original series in it, as they weren’t around during this time.
3,441 years is quite a long time, so it’s not totally clear what part of the already established Tolkien lore we’ll be seeing. The rise of big bad ring-thief Sauron and the formation of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men takes place at the tail end of the Second Age, but there’s a whole lot of stuff that went on before that, which could be covered instead.
According to Den of Geek, the show’s writing team may decide to “chronicle the downfall of the fabled civilization of Man that Aragorn’s bloodline was descended from” – which would explain why it was originally rumoured that Aragorn’s past would play a part in the series.
The news seems to confirm, however, that very few of the characters we know and love from the original trilogy will make an appearance, as most were born in the Third Age (apart from various characters including Galadriel, Elrond and Gandalf, who were born or existed in spirit form as “Maiar” before the Second Age).
So, yep, that’s about three and a half thousand years worth of speculation as to what will go down in the series… Good thing we’ve got another couple of years until it’s released.
Who are the creative team behind Amazon’s Lord of the Rings?
Amazon announced in July 2019 that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director JA Bayona will helm the first two episodes of the series. He will also serve as an executive producer, alongside his partner Belén Atienza.
They join Star Trek 4 writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay, who will serve as co-showrunners. On their appointment, the pair released a joint statement stating that they were “absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Amazon to bring it to life anew.”
“We feel like Frodo, setting out from the Shire, with a great responsibility in our care,” they added. “It is the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.”
Game of Thrones writer and co-executive producer Bryan Cogman will also be consulting on the series. After starting out as David Benioff and DB Weiss’s assistant, Cogman went on to write various episodes of the HBO fantasy drama, including season one’s ‘Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things’, season three’s ‘Kissed by Fire’ and episode two of the eighth season, ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’.
The full LoTR creative team was later confirmed in July 2019, with Lindsey Weber (10 Cloverfield Lane), Bruce Richmond (Game of Thrones), Gene Kelly (Boardwalk Empire) and Amazon’s former head of genre, Sharon Tal Yguado, all executive producing.
Writer/executive producers also include Gennifer Hutchison (Breakjing Bad), Jason Cahill (The Sopranos) and Justin Doble (Stranger Things).
And the series has nabbed Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s Rick Heinrichs as their production designer and Kate Hawley (Suicide Squad) to design costumes.
Will Peter Jackson be involved in Amazon’s Lord of the Rings?
The Oscar-winning director has confirmed he won’t be involved behind-the-scenes on the new series. Speaking with French publication Allocine, he said: “I’m not involved at all in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ series…I understand how my name could come up, but there is nothing happening with me on this project.”
What do Amazon’s Middle-earth maps mean?
The company may be keeping its cards close to its chest when it comes to actual announcements, but behind the scenes Amazon has quietly been paving the way for its landmark release.
The show’s Twitter feed, established in November 2018, has since February 2019 been linking to a series of online maps of Middle-earth.
Over the course of a number of messages, the maps have gradually been filled in – but what could it mean?
“I wisely started with a map,” the messages begin, a quote from Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien.
The messages then continue, quoting from a section of the books describing the infamous rings of power.
Here is the full text:
Three rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for mortal men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne;
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them;
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
With each message, a further part of the map is filled in. Could this be building to a major revelation?
You can explore the map in more detail on the Amazon website here.
The Lord of the Rings TV series will be on Amazon Prime Video. If you’re looking for something else to watch, check out our TV Guide.