Amazon Prime's Lord of the Rings series is hotly anticipated as much for its extraordinarily extravagant budget as for its return to Middle Earth. Reportedly, it's going to cost a billion dollars. A billion! $1,000,000,000.
I'm not being funny, right, but a billion dollars – £746,435,000 in sterling – is a lot more money than you think it is. You could get yourself pretty much anything. Seven Eden Hazards? Sure! Well, maybe five or six after you've sunk all that money into your own personal cloning lab.
Anyway, this is everything we know so far about the new Lord of the Rings series. At this stage that does not include intel on whether anyone will say "po-tay-toes – boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew". Sorry.
What's it all about?
We're assuming you know at least the broad strokes of the Lord of the Rings saga as seen in Peter Jackson's trilogy – tiny lad and his gardener sent on a mission by a wizard to destroy a powerful ring which a really evil king-ghost-spirit sort of lives in (?) by throwing it into a volcano, which they eventually do after a lot of faffing about – but none of that will be encroached upon in the Amazon series.
In January 2021, Amazon Studios released a synopsis – and while it doesn't provide much in the way of specifics, it's the most we've heard so far. It also makes clear, as we knew already, that it will include characters from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
"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."
The island kingdom of Númenor doesn't crop up in the films, and LOTR fan-site theonering.net believes it will be a central location for the series.
Who's in it?
Not everyone sorted yet, though. "We still have a few key roles to cast," Amazon co-head of TV Vernon Sanders told Deadline.
Last year, Amazon confirmed a slew of actors who've signed up to the cast. Aussie actor Tom Budge and Ismael Cruz Cordova from The Mandalorian and Mary Queen of Scots are the most recognisable of a list of largely unrecognisable names, with Amazon deciding to pick mostly new and unknown faces. The other actors confirmed are Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith and Charlie Vickers.
London-born, American-raised actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson, of Power fame, is also in. We thought Will Poulter was nailed on to star, but according to Variety he's now pulled out citing scheduling conflicts. But! Deadline reported in early January 2021 that Poulter's place will be taken by Robert Aramayo, who you'll no doubt remember from when he played the young Ned Stark in Game of Thrones.
The role being handed over is apparently that of the young hero, apparently named Beldor. Whether it turns out that he's distantly related to Thrones' door-holding man mountain Hodor will, one hopes, be explored in depth during the series.
Another lead was apparently confirmed in early March, with Deadline reporting that the magnificently named Maxim Baldry will be involved. You'll have seen Baldry before if you watched Years & Years, the brilliant near-futureshock series by Russell T Davies, in which he played the Ukrainian refugee Viktor. He's also popped up recently in the slightly odd George Michael-inspired Yuletide film Last Christmas and in Doctor Who as the man who invented vampires.
Plus, in mid-December 2019, Variety reported that Morfydd Clark has been cast as a young incarnation of the glowing forest-dwelling elf Galadriel, who was played in the Jackson trilogy by Cate Blanchett. Clark is set for a very good 2020, as she's the lead in Rose Clark's hotly anticipated British horror Saint Maud. Her name's pronounced more-fith, by the way.
"After undertaking an extensive global search, we are delighted finally to reveal the first group of brilliant performers who will take part in Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series," Variety reported showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay as saying. "These exceptionally talented women and men are more than just our actors: they are the newest members of an ever-expanding creative family that is now working tirelessly to bring Middle Earth to life anew for fans and audiences worldwide."
Other names which are reportedly close include Joseph Mawle, better known as Benjen Stark in Game of Thrones, as a villain called Oren, and Maxim Baldry from Years and Years.
How many episodes and series are we looking at here?
Amazon Studios are reportedly filming series one and two back to back this year, with a view of creating at least five seasons – though that could increase or decrease according to how popular it becomes, and how many billions are available at any given time. It's believed that the seasons will run for 8-10 episodes, too.
How on earth is it going to cost a billion dollars?
No idea. Maybe it'll feature Gandalf the Solid Platinum. The combined budget for the Lord of the Rings trilogy was $281 million, and it grossed $2.92 billion. Elijah Wood addressed the billion dollar budget during an interview, saying, “That’s crazy to me.”
Will it be filmed in New Zealand again?
Yes it will. Jackson's trilogy made great use of the mountains of South Island, including Mount Sunday and Nelson Tasman, and Amazon will be heading back there.
Who's involved behind the cameras?
JA Bayona, who directed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, will direct the first two episodes and executive produce. "JRR Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team," Deadline reported Bayona as saying. "I can’t wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never before seen story."
Elsewhere, Game of Thrones' Bryan Cogman will be a consulting producer, writers will include Gennifer Hutchison, Jason Cahill, Justin Doble and Helen Shang.
This handy video includes most of that information, but with the addition of a typewriter clacking out everyone's names in ye olde timey-honoured fashion.
When is it out?
It's expected to land at some point in 2021. We don't know exactly when. Sorry. But then as a wise man once said: a billion-dollar Amazon Prime series based on the Tolkien universe is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is it early. It arrives precisely when it means to, in a stretch Hummer with sick neons.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more delivered straight to your inbox.
You Might Also Like