Everyone knows the Lord of the Rings universe is one of the most magical and engrossing cultural creations we’ve ever seen. From the spell-binding fantasy novels published in the 1950s by legendary English author J. R. R. Tolkien to the epic, mega-successful films helmed by Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings has captured the imaginations of generations of readers and viewers.
And with the announcement that Amazon Studios is going to produce a blockbuster new TV series, a whole new crop of young ‘uns – along with us long-time fans – will get the chance to enjoy that Tolkien magic.
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Here’s everything we know about the new TV series…
How much will it cost?
The Lord of the Rings TV series reportedly has an eye-watering price tag of around $1 billion, which would make it the most expensive show ever made.
Amazon spent $250m for the rights and are expected to spend the rest on production and marketing.
When is it coming?
The new head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke has confirmed that the series won’t start production for another two years, with a tentative air date of 2021.
“It’ll be in production in two years [and on the air in] 2021 is the hope,” she recently told The Hollywood Reporter. “But there are other people who wish it was 2020.”
How many seasons will there be?
The megadeal is for five seasons — plus a potential spinoff. This spin-off is particularly tantalising and could give room for the franchise to tell some really left-field, fresh stories.
What’s it going to be about?
When the announcement was first made, Sharon Tal Yguado, Amazon’s head of scripted programming, said: “The Lord of the Rings is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen.
“We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle-earth.”
Hmmm… use of the word ‘new’ there means the show will more than likely tell previously-untold Tolkien stories rather than rehash the well-trodden path of the road to Mordor.
And Matt Galsor, a representative for the Tolkien Estate and Trust and HarperCollins, seemed to confirm this, saying Amazon’s project will “bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on JRR Tolkien’s original writings.”
But, speaking to Variety, Amazon boss Jennifer Salke hinted that it could pick up on some familiar story-lines: “It’s not a remaking of the movies, and it’s not a whole new thing. It’s something in between. It’s not, ‘Oh, it’s Lord of the Rings but you don’t recognize anything in it,’ but it’s not totally familiar to you either. So it’s original.”
There are plenty of unexplored Tolkien books that could be mined for the TV show including The Silmarillion (a book of Middle-earth ancient history), The Children of Húrin (a novel about Middle-earth under the shadow of the Dark Lord Morgoth) or The Fall of Gondolin (a novel about the Elven city of Gondolin, which will be published in August 2018).
Another popular fan theory spread by TheOneRing.net is that the show will focus on the early life of Aragorn before we met him in The Fellowship of the Ring.
It was first thought that Peter Jackson wouldn’t be involved in this new project at all but Jennifer Salke’s recent comments seem to suggest otherwise. “We’re in conversations with him that I think are very amicable about how much involvement he wants and what kind,” she said. “We’re still very much in conversation with him about what kind of involvement he would propose.”
Andy Serkis, who made Gollum one of the most famous CGI characters of all time, has however officially hung up his hat.
“I don’t know if I’d want to go back into the Lord of the Rings realm,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. “I feel like I’ve spent a large chunk of my life doing that. I’ll say good luck and I think fresh eyes are probably a good thing.”
And John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli, is positively furious that they’re bringing the franchise back.
“Why we quite need Lord of the Rings as a TV series baffles me slightly,” he told Den of Geek. “I mean, poor Tolkien must be spinning in his grave.”
But arguably the best character/actor from the films, Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf, has signaled that he’d love to get stuck back in.
On Graham Norton’s Radio 2 show a while ago, Norton said: “Amazon are doing a TV series of Lord of the Rings. Now isn’t that annoying? That there’s going to be another Gandalf in town?”
McKellen replied: “What do you mean, another Gandalf? I haven’t said yes because I haven’t been asked.”
He added: “But are you suggesting that someone else is going to play it? Gandalf is over 7,000 years old, so I’m not too old.”
I mean, the moment when Gandalf talks to Frodo about life and destiny is still incredibly powerful even after all these years, so we’d def be on board for more Gandalf…
(Images: Getty / WingNut Films / The Saul Zaentz Company / New Line Cinema)