It’s hard to think of a more hotly-anticipated upcoming TV show than Amazon Prime’s Lord of the Rings series – and expectations have risen even further with news of the show’s budget.
According to New Zealand news site Stuff, the first season will cost a staggering $465 million to make – for reference, that’s roughly $150 million more than Peter Jackson’s entire film triliogy!
With that kind of money being spent, you’d hope that the series would be a hit, and the details that have been released so far certainly sound promising.
Although plot information is understandably being kept under wraps, we do know that the show will delve into an earlier period in J.R.R Tolkein’s monumentally large universe, following characters that are mentioned in the author’s extensive notes and writings about Middle-Earth.
Meanwhile a recent casting call asked for actors who were comfortable with nudity – suggesting that we might be seeing some steamy scenes in the new series, something we’re not very used to seeing in Middle-Earth as the movies we have seen released have been largely family-friendly.
Orlando Bloom, who played Legolas in the previous trilogy, has told Collider that what’s coming is different, adding, “I think that’s a good thing.” However, not everyone is quite so enthusiastic, as co-star Hugo Weaving recently told Variety that he’s “not interested” in reprising the role of Elrond in Amazon’s project – he is also staying clear of the upcoming sequel to The Matrix.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Middle-Earth’s home in New Zealand, as the crew have returned to the island nation, which is particularly advantageous given its low amount of coronavirus cases. That could prevent The Lord of the Rings from being delayed quite as severely as many other major projects in the pipeline right now and let’s be honest, the country is so synonymous with The Lord of the Rings that setting it anywhere else would feel strange.
Read on for everything you need to know about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV series, with confirmed cast, showrunner details and release date – and of course, we’ll be keeping this page updated as soon 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 – beyond the fact that it is expected to arrive in 2021.
Production on the series began in 2020 – and despite a delay caused by the coronavirus outbreak, shooting is back underway again now.
Meanwhile Amazon has announced shooting will break for four or five months after the first two episodes are filmed to see what’s working.
And the shoot is not cheap: an incredible $465 million is being spent on the first season of the show, making the series something of a big gamble for the streaming service.
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings cast
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.”
Meanwhile Years and Years star Maxim Baldry has also been cast “in a significant role” – news which has now been confirmed by Deadline, with Baldry adding to an impressive CV that also includes roles in Doctor Who and 80 episodes of Hollyoaks.
Joseph Mawle – who is no stranger to fantasy fans due to his turn as Benjen Stark on Game of Thrones – has also been cast, with the star reportedly set to play the main antagonist in the series.
The full main cast was announced by Amazon in January 2020, with a host of new names – both familiar faces and relative newcomers – becoming attached to the project.
Welsh actor Owain Arthur is one of those to have joined the cast, with the show becoming the most high profile gig on his CV – which also includes appearances on Babylon, Casualty and A Confession.
Former Homeland star Nazanin Boniadi is another star confirmed for the series, while Australian actor Tom Budge had also signed on but has since left the project over creative differences, saying on Instagram: “After recently seeing the first episodes shot over the last year Amazon has decided to go in another direction with the character I was portraying.”
One character who was in the film series and will appear prominently in the TV series is royal elf Galadriel – with Dracula and His Dark Materials star Morfydd Clark taking over from Cate Blanchett in that role.
Meanwhile, Ismael Cruz Córdova best known for his role in Ray Donovan has also been given a role in the series, as has young star Markella Kavenagh – whose previous TV credits include Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Cry and The Gloaming.
Other stars involved in the series include, Ema Horvath (Don’t Look Deeper), Megan Richards (Wanderlust), Dylan Smith (Maze Runner), Charlie Vickers (Medici), Daniel Weyman (Silent Witness) and screen newcomers Tyroe Muhafidin and Sophia Nomvete.
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.”
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.”
On the other hand, Hugo Weaving recently said told Variety that he had “more than enough” of Lord of the Rings the first time around, denying any return in the future.
“Matrix might have happened,” he said. “But Lord of the Rings, no, I would never — I’m not interested in that at all. Look, I loved being in New Zealand with all those great people, and it was like going back to a family but actually, to be honest, I think everyone had more than enough of it.”
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.
What will the Amazon Lord of the Rings TV series be about?
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.
“It sounds more Silmarillion era. Not to get nerdy, but it’s the Second Age of Middle Earth.”
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. They have also released a synopsis for what it will be about!
Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series 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.
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.
Welcome to the Second Age: https://t.co/Tamd0oRgTw— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) March 7, 2019
According to Den of Geek, the show’s writing team may decide to “chronicle the downfall of the fabled civilisation 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.
One perhaps surprising new development emerged in October 2020 when a casting call was put out asking for actors who were comfortable with nudity.
Coupled with the fact that the series lists an intimacy co-ordinator amongst its crew, this has led to some speculation that the series will include some sex scenes – something which may come as a surprise to fans of Tolkien’s work.
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 (Breaking 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.
Also joining the creative team is Wayne Che Yip who has signed on to not just direct four episodes of the show, but to be an executive producer too. Yip is well known to genre fans for his directorial work having been involved in, amongst many other things, Doctor Who, its short-lived spin-off, Class, and Doom Patrol.
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.
“I wisely started with a map” — J.R.R. Tolkien— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) February 13, 2019
The messages then continue, quoting from a section of the books describing the infamous rings of power.
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, pic.twitter.com/unJj1Bpde1— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) February 15, 2019
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, pic.twitter.com/Btk2CRsQI2— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) February 18, 2019
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, pic.twitter.com/uobDLiKzKs— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) February 25, 2019
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.