J.R.R. Tolkien’s books about Middle Earth are some of the most celebrated fantasy fiction ever written. At the center is the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was published in 1954 and 1955. There was an animated movie version released in 1978, but it wasn’t until 2001 that the first ever live-action adaptation of Tolkien’s classic series appeared. Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring was a huge critical and commercial success, and was followed by the equally successful The Two Towers in 2002 and The Return of the King in 2003. These movies are now as revered as the books themselves, and have not been matched by any fantasy movie since (including Jackson’s own Hobbit films).
In 2011, HBO premiered a new fantasy show–Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Fire and Ice series. It became one of the biggest series on TV, paving the way for Lord of the Rings to make its return to screens. In 2018, it was announced that Amazon had beaten Netflix to strike a deal with Tolkien’s estate and publishers HarperCollins to make a new Middle Earth series.
Getting the rights to make a Lord of the Rings show did not come cheap, to say the least. It’s been reported that the deal was priced at $250 million, and Amazon’s five season commitment will ultimately cost the studio more than $1 billion to produce. Even in this age of premium TV, these are eye-watering amounts.
It’s relatively early days for the show, and we shouldn’t expect it to be released for some time. However, production has started, and fans of this classic series will be eager to see what the team behind it delivers. So here’s everything we know to date about the Lord of the Rings TV series.
When is it set?
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show is not a new adaptation or sequel to Tolkien’s books, nor is it a prequel as was initially rumored. While the series will be set before the events of the trilogy, it will take place thousands of years earlier, in a time known as the Second Age of Middle Earth. The setting was revealed by Amazon in a series of tweets, which showed the island of Númenor on a map. In Tolkien’s mythology, Númenor was destroyed long before the start of the Fellowship of the RIng. Jackson’s movies do contain footage of the Second Age, namely the flashback to the forging of the Rings and Sauron losing the One Ring. But this will be the first time this era has been explored in more detail.
Who’s in the show?
While specific plot and character details are currently unknown, we do know many of the actors who will appear. This is the official cast list that was announced by Amazon during the TCA press tour earlier this year:
- Roberto Aramayo (Nocturnal Animals)
- Owain Arthur (The Palace)
- Nazanin Boniadi (Hotel Mumbai)
- Tom Budge (The Proposition)
- Morfydd Clark (Crawl)
- Ismael Cruz Cordova (Ray Donovan)
- Ema Horvath (The Gallows Act II)
- Markella Kavenagh (Romper Stomper)
- Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones)
- Tyroe Muhafidin
- Sophia Nomvete
- Megan Richards
- Dylan Smith
- Charlie Vickers (Medici)
- Daniel Weyman (Gentleman Jack)
Years and Years star Maxim Baldry was subsequently announced in the cast as well.
In terms of who they will be playing, several character names have been reported. Deadline stated that Morfydd Clark will play a younger version of Galadriel, the Elf played by Cate Blanchett in the movies. Aramayo will reportedly play a “young hero” named Beldor–Will Poulter was originally cast in this role, but had to drop out for scheduling reasons. Other potential characters include the villainous Oren, to be played by Mawle, and the female lead Tyra, played by Kavenagh.
Who are the showrunners?
JD Payne and Patrick McKay are the showrunners on the Lord of the Rings show. There was some initial surprise that the pair did not have any prior TV writing credits, it was subsequently pointed out that Game of Thrones TV showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff didn’t either when they were first hired. Payne and McKay have also written the script for the upcoming Disney movie Jungle Cruise.
Who is directing?
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona will helm the first two episodes of the series. No other directors have been announced so far.
Where is it being filmed?
The Lord of the Rings movies were shot in New Zealand, so it wasn’t surprising when it was announced that the show will film there too. The spectacular landscape of that country is now hugely associated with Tolkien’s world, and it would be hard to imagine another location being nearly so effective.
Has production been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Is Peter Jackson involved?
Jackson won’t be directly involved with the Lord of the RIngs show. However, the director has stated that he might help out on an informal level. “I don’t have thoughts on it because I haven’t seen [anything],” he told the U.K. newspaper Metro. “[But] I think they’re going to send us some scripts to see if we can help them along. I wish them all the best and if we can help them we certainly will try. It’s a big task.”
What’s the release date?
Season 1 of Lord of the Rings does not currently have a confirmed release date. However, sometime in 2021 seems likely–Amazon Studios boss Jennifer Salke previously stated that’s when she hopes the show will premiere.
Are there any images or footage?
No official images or footage have been released so far. However, in March, Bayona shared this striking image from the set.
How many seasons will there be?
Season 2 was greenlit in November 2019, before Season 1 had even started shooting. But while it’s taken several years to get the show into production, Season 2 should start shooting fairly soon after. It was reported that the series will go on hiatus after the first two episodes are shot. This allows time for Season’s 2 scripts to be worked on and for flexibility about when Season 2 starts shooting. Of course, this was before the COVID-19 outbreak, so it is unknown if this is still the plan. Beyond that, Amazon’s deal with the Tolkien estate guarantees five seasons of the show.
Disclosure: ViacomCBS is GameSpot’s parent company