Everything to know about the ‘Lord of the Rings’ Amazon series

The world’s most ambitious corporation is making the world’s biggest TV show. Amazon is hard at work on “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” the series adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary epic fantasy franchise, which was previously adapted into the equally beloved “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy and the “Hobbit” trilogy, as well as many other adaptations. This will be the first time “LOTR” is being made into an ongoing TV series. It’s going to be a big deal. And by “big deal,” we mean “cost over a billion dollars to make.” Amazon paid $250 million for the rights alone, in a deal the attorney who negotiated it called “the most complicated deal I’ve ever seen.”

The show was announced in 2017. The eight-episode first season will premiere later this year and the second season has already been approved. The series is expected to run for five seasons. We don’t know much about the story the show will tell beyond that it will be a prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, a lesser-described period of Tolkien’s fictional mythology. But we know quite a lot about who’s making the series, who’s in it, and how much it will cost. 

Here’s what we know so far about Amazon’s “The Lord of the Rings” series.

What is The Lord of the Rings show called? 

Amazon’s “The Lord of the Rings” series received a title in January 2022. The show is officially called “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”

“This is a title that we imagine could live on the spine of a book next to J.R.R. Tolkien’s other classics. ‘The Rings of Power’ unites all the major stories of Middle-earth’s Second Age: the forging of the rings, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the epic tale of Númenor, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men,” showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay said in a press release. “Until now, audiences have only seen on-screen the story of the One Ring – but before there was one, there were many… and we’re excited to share the epic story of them all.” 

When will The Lord of the Rings show be on Amazon?

“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” is set to debut on Amazon starting September 2 in 240 countries around the world. New episodes will stream weekly on the service.

Who’s on The Lord of the Rings creative team?

The showrunners of “The Lord of the Rings” are J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, a screenwriting duo who have been working in Hollywood for many years but had previously never had a script made or gotten credited for projects they did a pass on, which include “Jungle Cruise” and the still-in-development “Star Trek 4,” according to Rotten Tomatoes. Amazon interviewed a lot of writers for the job, and Payne and McKay’s take on the material impressed the studio enough to give it to them. 

They’re joined in the executive producer corps by producer Lindsey Weber, production manager Callum Greene, director J.A. Bayona and his producing partner Belén Atienza, writers Justin Doble, Jason Cahill, and Gennifer Hutchison, producer Bruce Richmond, and former Amazon Studios executive Sharon Tal Yguado

Spanish director Bayona is directing the first two episodes of the series, bringing the big franchise experience he gained while helming “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” to help the less-experienced Payne and McKay. British-Chinese television director Wayne Che Yip (“Doctor Who,” “Into the Badlands”) is directing four episodes and co-executive producing, and Swedish-French television director Charlotte Brändström (“The Witcher,” “Outlander”) is directing two. 

The writing staff, in addition to showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, includes EPs Justin Doble (“Stranger Things”), Jason Cahill (“The Sopranos”), and Gennifer Hutchison (“Breaking Bad”), consulting producers Bryan Cogman (“Game of Thrones”) and Stephany Folsom (“Toy Story 4”), co-producer Helen Shang (“13 Reasons Why”), and writing consultant Glenise Mullins

Other behind-the-scenes members of the creative team include producer Christopher Newman, costume designer Kate Hawley (“Suicide Squad”), production designer Rick Heinrichs (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”), visual effects supervisor Jason Smith (“The Revenant”), Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey, illustrator and concept artist John Howe, and visual effects producer Ron Ames, who has a producer credit.

“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,” Payne and McKay said when the creative team was announced. “We feel humbled and extremely lucky to be surrounded by such inspiring and talented women and men.”

“Lord of the Rings” film franchise mastermind Peter Jackson is not involved.

Who’s in the cast of The Lord of the Rings show?

A huge number of cast members for the series have been announced, though we only know who a few of them are playing. 

Robert Aramayo (“Game of Thrones,” “Behind Her Eyes”) has the lead role, a character reportedly named Beldor. Deadline first reported Aramayo’s casting in January 2020. He replaced “Midsommar” actor Will Poulter, who left the show due to so-called “scheduling conflicts.” 

“Picnic at Hanging Rock” star Markella Kavenagh is playing a character described by Deadline as the female lead, named Tyra.

Joseph Mawle – “Game of Thrones” character Benjen Stark – is reportedly playing the main antagonist Oren, according to Deadline

Variety reported that “Saint Maud” star Morfydd Clark is portraying young Galadriel, the regal elf played in the movies by Cate Blanchett.

The rest of the cast was announced in two batches, one in January 2020 and one in December 2020. The names are a mix of well-established actors and unknowns.

The first batch, in addition to the aforementioned leads, revealed that the cast includes Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, and Daniel Weyman. 

The second batch included 20 new names: Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Maxim Baldry, Ian Blackburn, Kip Chapman, Anthony Crum, Maxine Cunliffe, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Thusitha Jayasundera, Fabian McCallum, Simon Merrells, Geoff Morrell, Peter Mullan, Lloyd Owen, Augustus Prew, Peter Tait, Alex Tarrant, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker, and Sara Zwangobani.

Will Gandalf appear in the Lord of the Rings series?

The series is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, which is when Sauron first took over and the Rings of Power were created, thousands of years before the events of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The Second Age ended when Sauron was defeated for the first time. According to Gandalf’s very detailed Wikipedia page, the wizard didn’t come to Middle-earth until early in the Third Age. 

It’s been reported since the series was announced in 2017 that “LOTR” rights holders – which include the Tolkien Estate and Trust, publisher HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema, the studio that produced Peter Jackson’s films – were imposing certain “creative restrictions” on Amazon’s production. According to Tolkien scholar and series consultant Tom Shippey, the series’ writers reportedly can’t change anything in the timeline J.R.R. Tolkien created, which indicates no Gandalf. But nothing is confirmed, so we can’t say for certain that Gandalf won’t be in the series. 

How much did the Lord of the Rings series cost?

Short answer: So much.

Longer answer: Amazon paid about $250 million just for the rights to make the series. And Jeff Bezos’ company is projected to spend another NZ$650 million – about $465 million USD – just to make the first season, according to New Zealand publication Stuff. The government of New Zealand would provide a 25 percent tax subsidy for Season 1, which could be renewed for the rest of the show’s planned five-season run and potential spinoffs, putting the government on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to Amazon. This deal is controversial in the small nation with an economy smaller than Amazon’s annual revenue.

That’s $715 million just for the rights and production of the first season (though further seasons likely won’t cost quite so much, as a chunk of that $465 million is for startup costs like construction of sets that will be used throughout the show). The show will cost well over a billion dollars to produce and market over the course of its lifetime. It will almost certainly be the most expensive TV show ever made. By way of comparison, “Game of Thrones” cost about $100 million per season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

What is the Lord of the Rings series about?

Here’s the official synopsis, via Amazon:

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.

When does the Lord of the Rings series take place?

The series is set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, a 3,441-year period that began with the rise of Númenor, an Atlantis-like civilization that was the greatest civilization on the planet during most of the time period. During this time, the evil being Sauron rose to prominence and created the Rings of Power. Númenor eventually fell to Sauron and ceased to exist after sinking into the ocean. Years after that, Sauron was defeated, which ended the Second Age and started the Third Age, which culminated in Sauron’s rise again and second, final defeat after the One Ring is destroyed. Based on the series description, it sounds like the series will start in the years leading up to the fall of Númenor. 

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