It goes without saying that The Lord of the Rings is one of the most famous fantasy stories ever told. So it may not be a huge surprise that in their quest to create the next pop culture phenomenon in the vein of Game of Thrones, Amazon Studios is in the process of producing a television show set in Middle Earth.
In 2017, Warner Brothers and the Tolkien Estate began shopping around the TV rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth and its encompassing materials. In November of the same year, it was announced that Amazon Studios had purchased the rights for a whopping $250,000,000 USD. This deal also gave Amazon the rights to develop a potential spin-off series, and access to all Middle Earth material apart from first-age content not referenced in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the contents of the Silmarillion. Early on in development there was speculation that the show might focus on the adventures of the ranger Aragorn before his involvement with the fellowship, but that idea was later set aside in favor of the story of Eregion, which takes place during the period known as the Second Age. This is despite some concerns that the story covered too long of a time span.
In June of 2018 executives expressed an interest in filming the show in New Zealand. This makes sense, as both of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth trilogies were filmed there. However, Amazon also expressed some interest in looking at other locations for filming, so long as they found spots that matched their desired vision for the show. As such, while the team began the pre-production process in Auckland, New Zealand, the team also scouted various locations in Scotland including the Isle of Skye, Loch Lomond, and Portpatrick. There was even some discussion of the possibility of the production moving its headquarters from Auckland to Leith, Edinburgh. This caused a minor crisis between the production and the government of New Zealand, which led to the show being granted another approximately $100,000,000 in filming incentives to get them to stay in New Zealand. While most of season one was filmed in Auckland, Queenstown, and other locations around New Zealand, there have been reports that season two will most likely be moving to the United Kingdom. This is believed to be due to the country’s strict COVID-19 regulations.
In February 2019, the official Twitter account for the show @LOTRonPrime came online. The writer’s room – consisting of Helen Shang, Stephanie Folsom, Justin Doble, Gennifer Hutchison, Bryan Cogman, and Jason Cahill – also began work in Santa Monica around the same time. They worked for several months developing the scripts for the first season, before being disbanded for the filming of the first two episodes. They then reconvened during a months-long break in filming. They used this time to put any necessary finishing touches on season one and do most of the work for season two.
As far as the cast goes, all the cast members for season one seem to have been announced. The cast list consists of Markella Kavenagh as Elanor Brandyfoot, Robert Aramayo as Lord Elrond, Peter Mullen as an unknown character, Benjamin Walker as High King Gil-Galad, Nazanin Boniadi as Bronwyn, Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, Ismael Cruz Cordova Arondir, Charles Edwards Celebrimbor, Maxim Baldry as Isildur, Daniel Weyman as The Stranger, Charlie Vickers as Halbrand, Owain Arthur as Prince Durin IV, and Sophia Nomvete as Disa.
By March 2020 filming on the first two episodes of season one had begun. The initial plan was to film the first two episodes, take a four or five month long break to review the footage and start writing season two, and then get back to filming. Due to the pandemic, however, production was temporarily halted. It then picked back up again that September. Filming continued in various stages until their official wrap date, which was August 3rd, 2021. According to reports, Amazon was so satisfied with the existing footage at the time that they went so far as to greenlight season three.
Over the course of the production, several people and companies associated with the Peter Jackson films have expressed interest in working on the show. Since post-production on the show began, it has come to light that Amazon is working with WETA Digital, the VFX company responsible for all of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth installments. They also appear to be working with several individuals who were previously attached to the films. One such example is composer Howard Shore, who was not approached during production, but has since been reported to be involved with the project. For those unaware, Shore was the composer of both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
Over the past several months the production has begun to ramp up their marketing through a campaign that is starting to reach more potential viewers. They started by releasing a teaser on January 19th, 2022 with a score by MTV alum Felix Erskine, in which they revealed the September 2nd release date and that the show’s official title is The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The show’s title has long been a topic of speculation amongst fans, as most have just been calling it some variation of “The Lord of the Rings Show”. A couple weeks later, on February 3rd, 23 promotional posters were released to the public via social media in which no faces or character names were displayed. This was supposedly done to help fuel fan speculation and excitement for the show.
There should be more news and material released in the coming months, but for now be sure to keep September 2nd clear, as this will hopefully be another fantastic installment in Tolkien’s epic world.
Written by Hannah Yip-Chuck, Mohawk College
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