At the turn of the millennium, down in the Oceanic country of New Zealand, a cinematic interpretation of some of the best-loved fantasy novels of all time was underway.
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy became critically acclaimed and set records at the Academy Awards with a total of 30 nominations across three films, with Return of the King equaling the all-time number of Oscars won by a film in a single night (11 wins).
Now, in 2021, Amazon has made a staggering investment to acquire the rights to Lord of the Rings, reportedly sinking almost a billion dollars over five years to produce a new Lord of the Rings TV series. This would make it the most expensive TV series ever produced.
The first season’s production is now wrapped as of this writing and due to hit Amazon Prime Video in September 2022, with the second season set to begin principal photography before the first season even airs.
Due to the scale of this investment, Amazon has committed themselves to at least five seasons of the show, and has spent good money on building a creative team of Hollywood producers—who, in turn, have cast some of the finest up-and-coming talents in the new series.
There are a lot of interesting bits to know about Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series; here are some of the most important details worth knowing as we near closer to release.
1. Morfydd Clark Is Galadriel
With the franchise having millions of fans worldwide, we’ve all been eagerly waiting to see who will be portraying our favorite characters. But even so far, there hasn’t been much news regarding the cast.
Multiple rumors have circulated about some of the more well-known actors, but only one of these rumors has been confirmed by production: Morfydd Clark, star of Saint Maud and BAFTA nominee, will be playing Galadriel—a role that was first brought to life by Cate Blanchett.
The news of Galadriel’s involvement in the series isn’t a shock to most Lord of the Rings fans because she’s thousands of years old and one of the most expansive characters in the Tolkien universe.
Clark has demonstrated her acting ability across multiple projects now, so to see her undertake such a central role in the show is a good sign that the creative team got casting decisions right.
2. It Will Focus on The Second Age
When the announcement came that Amazon would be taking the rights to Lord of the Rings and making it into a series, many wondered whether they’ve simply retread the content of the original books.
Which would have been a foolish move, since the success of the original trilogy would be tough to compete against, both critically and with the fans. Fortunately, Amazon’s series will take place thousands of years before the film trilogy: during the Second Age of Middle-Earth.
It has the promise of being an incredible spectacle, as the Second Age is when Sauron created the rings of power, corrupted the kings of men into Ringwraiths, and was defeated by the combined armies of Elves and Men.
3. J. A. Bayona Will Direct and Executive Produce the Series
Amazon reportedly had discussions with Peter Jackson for the series with little success, so they began looking for others to helm the project. Step in J. A. Bayona, the director of The Impossible, A Monster Calls, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
It’s confirmed that Bayona will direct the first two episodes of the series, and then executive produce the entire project.
It’s a bold decision by Amazon to bring Bayona on board. While he does have good experience working on effects-driven projects, his last film Fallen Kingdom was flop among critics and viewers (despite raking in over $1 billion at the box office).
Time will tell if Amazon’s decision was wise to bring him in as one of their creative figureheads. The good news is, he’ll be collaborating with many others with solid track records, including The Sopranos writer Jason Cahill and Better Call Saul veteran Gennifer Hutchinson.
4. Jeff Bezos Was Personally Involved In Negotiations
In a rare move for the CEO of a trillion-dollar company, Jeff Bezos personally oversaw negotiations to bring over the rights to Lord of the Rings to Amazon.
We now know that Bezos specifically told his team that works on Amazon Prime Video’s content production that he wants more fantasy-driven projects (akin to Game of Thrones) on the platform.
This isn’t the first time the CEO has gotten personally involved with Amazon Prime Video’s output, as Bezos also stepped in to save the once-cancelled SyFy series The Expanse after it was canned by the network, all because he was a fan of the show.
5. The Commitment and Costs Are Insane
Despite speculators throwing around big numbers when discussing the Amazon series’ costs, it needs to be noted: Amazon doesn’t currently have a billion-dollar mark against production on their books.
Yes, the rights to Lord of the Rings did cost Amazon $250 million to secure, and yes, the remaining cost for the first season is estimated to be around $150 million (after a hefty tax rebate of $114 million from the New Zealand government).
However, due to Amazon’s contractual commitment placed upon themselves during negotiations, there will be a minimum of five seasons—that’s how it might cost $1 billion by the end.
All of this means that Amazon is stuck in their deal to produce at least five seasons of the show, which will cost them more than an arm and a leg in the process. But that’s good news for us: it means they should have a solid story plan for those five seasons, and we’ll get tons of content!