The Lord of the Rings is making the jump from the big screen to its smaller cousin. Yes, a live-action TV series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastical world is coming to Amazon Prime Video in collaboration with the Tolkien estate.
We’ve already been treated to two film trilogies – one is better than the other, admittedly – but this is the first time that a live-action TV show based on Tolkien’s literary universe has been attempted. While its launch is still someway off, there’s plenty of information available online about its cast, production, potential plot, setting and more to keep you occupied.
The latest information concerns the addition of a new director, and her involvement in other big fantasy TV shows mean that Amazon’s Lord of the Rings should be in good hands. We’ve also heard from legendary composer Howard Shore, who has spoken up about his potential involvement in the series, which is set during the Second Age.
That’s not all we’ve covered. Below, you’ll find different sections relating to the most important news and rumors out there, including a possible release date, other casting news and more.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Amazon’s TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth novel series
- Where can I watch it? Amazon Prime Video
- When will it be released? Probably 2021
- What did Amazon pay for Lord of the Rings? $250 million for the rights alone – and that’s before you enter production
- Are the Lord of the Rings movies on Amazon Prime? Yes
Lord of the Rings on Amazon release date: 2022?
At the moment, there isn’t one. Filming is already underway, however, and has been since February 2020 (per Stuff.co.nz). Of course, production on the series hasn’t been without its issues. Stuntwoman Elissa Cadwell was injured just days into filming the first tow episodes, while the Covid-19 pandemic caused production to shut down in New Zealand in March 2020 (h/t New Zealand Herald).
In July 2020, New Zealand government minister Phil Twyford granted exemptions to seven film and TV productions. This allowed cast and crew members to enter the country – during the pandemic – while its borders remained closed to non-New Zealanders. The Lord of the Rings was one such project, and pre-production recommenced in July 2020 (h/t Stuff.co.nz). Filming resumed in late September, according to Deadline, with principal photography starting up again in January following a two-break Christmas break (h/t New Zealand Herald).
Wayne Che Yip is currently leading filming on the TV show after multiple outlets, including Variety, revealed that the Hunters director had been brought on board. Yip will direct four of the series’ eight episodes, with the British-Chinese helmer following J.A. Bayona in the directorial hot seat. Bayona directed the series’ first two instalments, including the pilot episode, and production on these wrapped on December 23 (h/t ComicBook.com).
Another recent directorial addition is Charlotte Brändström. The Swedish-French director, whose credits include Netflix’s The Witcher and Jupiter’s Legacy, as well as Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, has joined up with production in New Zealand to direct two of season 1’s episodes.
Speaking after the announcement, Brändström said: “I’m very excited to be guided through Middle-earth by J.D.’s and Patrick’s vision and immerse myself in the iconic world of J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s a great privilege to be in New Zealand to work with Amazon Studios’ outstanding ensemble of creative talents. There are countless things still to see in Middle-earth, and great works to do.”
Check out Brändström’s tweet on the announcement below:
Greetings from Middle-earth#LOTR #LOTRonPrime @LOTRonPrime pic.twitter.com/EEYgIRTIWsMay 13, 2021
With principal photography still ongoing in New Zealand, then, we shouldn’t expect Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series to arrive anytime soon. If filming wraps within the next few months, it’s possible that the TV show could land in Q4 2021.
It would be well-timed, on Amazon’s part, if its Lord of the Rings series arrived for the winter TV schedule. It’ll be 20 years since The Fellowship of the Ring movie arrived in theaters on December 10, so lining up the Lord of the Rings’ TV premiere for that date would be a lovely touch.
All of this depends on how long the filmmaking process will take, though, and whether reshoots will be necessary. Just recently, Australian actor Tom Budge left the TV show after Amazon Studios decided to go in a different direction with his character. If there are other adjustments needed during filming, we could see the series further delayed, which would push its release date back.
You can check out Budge’s Instagram post on the news below:
Morfydd Clark, who will portray a young Galadriel in Amazon’s Lord of the Rings, also spoke to Esquire about her involvement in Amazon’s adaptation recently. Clark explained that she would be filming in New Zealand for “a few months” before being able to return home. Clark also seemingly admitted that she was locked in for five seasons of Amazon’s production, which tallies with reports that Amazon want this to be a long-running TV series.
Lord of the Rings on Amazon cast: who is playing who?
A series on this scale needs a huge cast, and Amazon’s Lord of the Rings ensemble is absolutely stacked.
There are currently 35 actors currently listed as appearing in the TV show, according to the official casting page (Budge is still there despite having departed the project). You can check out who will be appearing in Amazon’s TV adaptation on that page, and then read on to find out which role each actor is believed to be inhabiting.
According to Variety, Morfydd Clark (Saint Maud) has been cast as a younger version of Galadriel. Lord of the Rings fans will know that the powerful elf was played by Cate Blanchett in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. As this series is set during the Second Age, though, Galadriel will be younger in Amazon’s TV show.
Another role that we’re fairly certain of is Simon Merrells. According to the actor’s biography page on the Warring and McKenna management agency website, Merrells (Good Omens) will be playing an original character called Trevyn.
However, there have been rumors surrounding the identities of other actors’ roles. In July 2019, The Hollywood Reporter claimed that Markella Kavenagh (The Cry) had signed on to play a character called Tyra, while a December 2020 Deadline report suggested that Lloyd Owen (Monarch of the Glen) would portray someone known as Loda. Robert Aramayo, who played a young Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, is believed to have replaced Will Poulter as Beldor, one of the TV show’s main heroes (h/t Deadline).
Joseph Mawle, who played Benjen Stark in Game of Thrones, is also thought to have been cast as the series antagonist Oren (h/t Deadline). However, it’s unclear if this character has ties to Sauron – more on him later – or if he’ll be a supporting villain. Other series regulars, according to an official Amazon’s Lord of the Rings Twitter thread, include General Hospital’s Nazanin Boniadi, and Welsh theater actor Owain Arthur.
Additionally, Amazon Studios announced 20 cast members who would play supporting roles in the Lord of the Rings TV show last December (h/t Deadline). British comedian-actor Sir Lenny Henry, Years and Years’ Maxim Baldry, Divinity’s Maxine Cunliffe, A Discovery of Witches’ Trystan Gravelle, and Power’s Cynthia Addai-Robinson.
One thing that’s definitely certain is that we won’t see the likes of Frodo, Sam or Aragorn in this adaptation. For reasons you’ll read further down this page, these characters were born in Middle-Earth’s Third Age, which places the show outside of their timelines. If you’re expecting anything other than a cameo from any of the film trilogy’s hobbits or men, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
There are key Second Age players, including elven High King Gil-galad, elven smith Celebrimbor, dwarf King Durin III, and Numenorian King Elendil, who haven’t had their castings revealed yet either. It’s likely that these individuals will be part of the announced cast but, once we have confirmation, we’ll update this section.
Lord of the Rings on Amazon plot: what is the story about?
On this front, we have more concrete news. Taking to Twitter in January, TheOneRing.net uploaded the synopsis that Amazon Studios released just weeks into the New Year. You can see the full synopsis in the tweet below:
Our servers haven’t crashed & burned like this since 2003, so here’s the official show synopsis for Amazon’s LORD OF THE RINGS series. 📺 #LOTRonPrime pic.twitter.com/O9k0Q8VkuzJanuary 13, 2021
Obviously, the synopsis doesn’t dive into any character reveals or heavy plot points, but there’s enough here to go on for now.
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings will be set during Middle-Earth’s Second Age, which lasted for nearly 3,500 years and ended with Sauron’s eventual defeat at the hands of the alliance between men and elves. This is the battle that opened Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, so it’s possible that we may see this adapted again at some point in the Amazon series.
Judging by Amazon’s synopsis, however, that will be some way off if it does appear. There’s lots of Middle-Earth history that Amazon’s Lord of the Rings could cover, and we know that we’ll be seeing live-action debuts for new areas of Tolkien’s world in the TV show.
It would be amazing for audiences to visit the likes of Numenor, Lindon and Eregion, and seeing Barad-dur being built – as well as the proper forging of the One Ring – would be awesome call backs to the source material and Peter Jackson’s Lords of the Rings trilogy.
While we wait for more news on the story front, we have also seen a map of what Middle-Earth looked like during the Second Age. You can check out the image, which was uploaded to the official Amazon Lord of the Rings Twitter account, below:
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. #LOTRonPrime pic.twitter.com/7TuQh7gRPDMarch 7, 2019
Amazon is reportedly committed to producing five seasons of its Lord of the Rings series, according to a 2018 IGN report. Per a GameSpot article in November 2019, only two of those season have currently been greenlit.
Future instalments will seemingly depend on the Tolkien estate, too, with an Engadget article from 2019 quoting Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey as saying that the author’s estate has the right to veto anything that strays too far from Middle-Earth’s lore.
With Amazon having to stick to much of the Second Age’s lore, then, we should see how Sauron returns and almost ends up ruling over Middle-Earth. The Lord of the Rings’ big bad has a huge role in how the Second Age plays out, so we can expect to see his rise to power again and the eons-spanning fallout after he tries to enslave men, dwarves, and elves with the Rings of Power.
Another element of Amazon’s adaptation is that it’ll be more adult than some fans have envisaged. According to TheOneRing.net, Amazon hired a well-known New Zealand intimacy coordinator – Jennifer Ward-Lealand – back in October 2020.
It’s unclear what level of intimacy Ward-Lealand has been hired for, but some Tolkien fans have already voiced their displeasure over Ward-Lealand’s hiring. Why? Well, intimacy – as an industry term – usually refers to nudity or sex scenes. Think along the lines of HBO’s adaptation of Game of Thrones and you’ll get the idea.
If, and it’s a big if as we don’t know Amazon’s plan for its adaptation, nudity is a part of the company’s Lord of the Rings series, you can expect it to receive a high age rating when it finally airs.
Lord of the Rings on Amazon cost: how much will it be to make?
Amazon bought the rights to the Lord of the Rings TV show for $250 million in November 2017 (h/t Deadline). If Amazon completes its five-season run, it’ll be expected that the entire production will have cost $1 billion, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This would make Amazon’s Lord of the Rings the most expensive series of all-time.
That $1 billion mark is moving closer to reality, if not more, too. As New Zealand-based publication Stuff recently revealed, season 1 of the show will reportedly cost $650m New Zealand dollars to produce. Converting that into US$, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings season 1 will cost upwards of $465 million.
However, it turns out that Amazon Studios will get a portion of its production costs knocked off the bill by the New Zealand government. Reuters has reported that Amazon is getting an extra five per cent from the nation’s Screen Production Grant due to the jobs and work it has generated for the country’s economy. This means that Amazon Studios is eligible to receive a rebate of NZ$162 million (US$116 million) from the New Zealand government – funds that will reduce Amazon’s financial outlay for season 1, at the very least.
Amazon Studios is working alongside HarperCollins and New Line Cinema – the latter helped produced both film trilogies – as well as the Tolkien estate. It’s unclear, though, if New Line is helping to pay for production costs.
Lord of the Rings on Amazon crew: who is involved?
As well as Yip, Bayona and Brändström, key members of the production team include show creators J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay. The two writers have been on board since July 2018 (h/t The Hollywood Reporter) and are also executively producing the series.
Other executive producers include Bayone, Lindsay Weber, Callum Greene, Jason Cahill, and Gennifer Hutchinson. Kate Hawley is leading costume design on the series, while concept artist John Howe – one the film’s chief conceptual designers – is also part of the crew.
One person who hasn’t returned for Amazon’s adaptation is Peter Jackson. The director of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies had been tapped by Amazon, but ultimately declined to get involved. In a 2018 Metro UK article, Jackson revealed that he and his partners were happy to look over scripts for the TV show if necessary, before adding that he “wished them [Amazon] all the best” with their adaptation.
Around the same time, Jackson also told Fandom that he “would hope to just be able to go into a Tolkien story and enjoy it like an audience member, which I’ve never been able to do”. Jackson will get his wish, then, when Lord of the Rings lands exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in the future.
Finally, Howard Shore – who scored all six Lord of the Rings movies – has revealed that he hasn’t been contacted about writing the music for Amazon’s TV show. Back in January in an interview with Observer.com, the composer admitted that he would “consider it” if the streaming giant approached him, but we’ll have to wait and see if there’s movement on this front.