The Annecy Film Festival “second look” at The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim has just concluded and reactions are starting to trickle out.

It sounds like a lot of people were quite impressed. Variety described the footage as “epic” and stated that the showing received “thunderous applause”.

Screendaily probably has the most comprehensive report so far and has the news from Philippa Boyens that Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson are on board as executive producers.

“They’ve been huge supporters of this film from the very beginning; they’ve stayed in the background a little, but I’m proud to reveal that they’ve been with us all along and are in fact our executive producers.

“They wanted to stay in the background because Peter in particular wanted to give Kenji the space to find his own way into the film,” added Boyens, who produces The War Of The Rohirrim with Joseph Chou.

Warner Bros/New Line screened 20 minutes of the film to the Annecy audience. It was followed by a panel hosted by Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in Jackson’s Rings trilogy, with Boyens, Kamiyama, Chou and executive producer Jason DeMarco present.

“We did not want to make an animated version of a Peter Jackson film,” said DeMarco. “We wanted to make a Kenji Kamiyama animated feature film that lives within that world. That’s a difficult task that requires a lot of delicate balancing between two types of filmmaking that haven’t collided like this before.”

Here’s a quick selection of instant reactions and good ol’ hot takes.

A super exciting event and incredible audience reaction. Six months to go! #waroftherohirrim @stephengallaghermusic

@Pin3hot on Instagram

By Ilúvatar, THE WAR OF THE ROHIRRIM looks stellar.

@RafaelMotamayor on Twitter

Seen 20 minutes of #WaOofTheRohirrim. Reservations about the animation. hot for the story. It comes out in December, the old-fashioned way.

@CloneWeb on Twitter

Had the pleasure of seeing a sneak peak of The Lords of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. Honestly it’s absolutely stunning and I can’t wait for it to be released in cinemas. #JosephatAnnecy #AnnecyFestival #LOTR #Anime

@JosephYoung on Twitter

Animation style of ‘THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE WAR OF THE ROHIRRIM’ is very much like Japanese anime & ‘CASTLEVANIA.’

@NexusPointNews on Twitter

I’ll continue to update these as more information comes in.

In unrelated posts on Instagram, Evangeline Lilly and Nazanin Boniadi announced they are stepping away from acting after being in high profile, but separate, Middle-earth franchise projects.

Tauriel finds her dharma

Evangeline Lilly played Tauriel in The Hobbit trilogy of films, becoming a fan favorite and inspiring some of the best cosplay of that era. She had lines around the block for her SDCC signings at the Weta Workshop booth and became a champion for the fangirl experience.

She parlayed the success of The Hobbit into a title role as The Wasp in the MCU Marvel Cinematic Universe. But being a part of two giant franchises bears a heavy burden. Lilly was on the receiving end of much online criticisms about those movies. As the only main female character in The Hobbit – a book that does not feature any women – she stepped up into a creative situation with everything to prove. Tauriel is now generally appreciated by fandom, but it was a hard-earned.

Instead of wanting to be the people I admire, I now find myself rooting for them. Instead of wanting to compete with my peers, I now want to see them succeed. Instead of seeing little merit in the young, I want to invest in them.

Evangeline Lilly, on IG

On instagram, LOST fans found an old video from her breakout role describing where she wanted to be in 10 years – “Retired.”

Bronwyn chooses an activist life

Nazanin Boniadi, an accomplished Iranian actress who fans were excited about in the lead up to the debut of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, posted on Instagram about her reasons for leaving the show.

To everyone’s surprise, THR broke the story that Boniadi would not be returning for Season 2 of ROP. Sources in the article claimed she was leaving acting and the show to commit full time to her activism work on behalf of Iranian women. But hours later, Boniadi posted to IG to correct the record, stating “This was unrelated to my subsequent decision to prioritize my advocacy,” and that leaving the show was intentional.

The values I have held most dear are honesty, empathy and integrity.  My character Bronwyn was committed to these same ideals in striving for a fairer world, which is why I connected so deeply with her.

Nazanin Boniadi, via IG

The casting process of Prime Video’s The Rings of Power was met with celebration – and some small but loud online vitriol. It’s been no secret that actors of non-white descent received a large amount of negativity directed toward them — including death threats and phone hacking, creating an unsafe environment. There have historically been those dark corners of internet discussion, even going all the way back to Ian McKellen being accused of ruining Tolkien’s story because he was a gay actor playing Gandalf. McKellen eventually responded to the online trolls in his personal blog. But true devotees of Tolkien’s writings understand the core themes of The Lord of the Rings: there is strength in diversity of experience and variety of personhood. LOTR fans continue to embrace the ever-growing casts of these adaptations with open arms. To this blogger, Nazanin’s exit from The Rings of Power is a huge loss to the show.

Deadline reported that the role of Bronwyn has not be recast, unlike the recasting of Adar and – during filming of S1 – of Celebrimbor. Then eagle-eyed fans watching the recent ROP trailers spotted a funeral pyre and Bronwyn’s son Theo crying.

Join the biggest, most active LOTR Discord where fans celebrate all things Tolkien here.

Peter Jackson and other luminaries from all quadrants of the Film Business celebrate the life of Sir Christopher Lee (who played Saruman in both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) in a new feature-length documentary. We caught up with the director of the film, Jon Spira, to get the real story on Lee’s personal mythology.

The new documentary is completely finished, and pre-orders for the DVD and Blu-ray editions are available on Kickstarter now. With self-distribution, the documentary bonus features will include the full, unexpurgated Peter Jackson interview as well as many other goodies. See a clip here:

Director Jon Spira talks with Quickbeam

Quickbeam: When we were making Ringers: Lord of the Fans, we were just walking around and asking all kinds of people, would you like to share your reflections on the the whole Lord of the Rings fandom. Everybody from David Carradine right on down to Peter Jackson and everyone in between was very happy to say yes. The stories just profusely came out of people. Did you find that people were just really eager to talk about Sir Christopher Lee?

Jon Spira: People really wanted to talk about Christopher Lee because he left an indelible mark on everyone he met. He was loved and admired; and and I say that as two very separate things. The people who knew him truly loved him, and the people who maybe didn’t know him as closely, truly admired him. One of the things that I found really kind of heartening and fascinating to learn was that he was somebody who was completely egalitarian. He would talk to anybody, he treated everybody as his equal, and he would sit down. He loved being on film sets, and he was just as happy talking to a runner as he would be talking to the director.

Christopher Lee didn’t differentiate between people he really didn’t see differently from someone who came from genuine aristocracy. He didn’t see that divide in people. And so he he left a legacy of genuine affection. And that was something which really kind of came out in the film.

Allowing Sir Christopher to be His Own Voice

Quickbeam: I love that that you can discover new insights into your subject without knowing you’re going to arrive there. You you begin as a filmmaker, as a documentarian, you start somewhere and you always surprise yourself and ending up with new places and new information you’ve discovered that actually does recontextualize what you’re trying to present (as a filmmaker).

Jon: There’s some apocryphal stuff out there, but most of those crazy lists are completely true. Really weird stuff. Like, he met Rasputin’s killers and he witnessed the last-ever guillotined person in Paris. You know, all that strange stuff is true!

I trust the process now. I don’t always know going into it. I don’t always know what I’m making. One thing that I really knew was that I wanted Christopher Lee to narrate this film somehow. Like, I knew that he had to be the narrator of the story, because I knew that he was the unreliable narrator.

(Editor’s Note: Jon helped us clarify that Sir Christopher was indeed NOT related to Gen. Lee)

Sir Christopher’s Deep Fascination with Tolkien

Jon: He was completely obsessed with Tolkien. He read Lord of the Rings when it first came out, like, you know, chapter by chapter. And he read it every year. He would read the whole of Lord of the Rings cycle once a year. He was completely obsessed with it. When it was announced that Peter Jackson was going to make the films, he basically grabbed hold of his son-in-law, who was, to a degree, his defacto manager at the time, and basically said: “You have to get me in these films, no matter what. You have to get me in these films–so get online.” Because he personally was a very early adopter of the internet as well, and using it for his fan base, he was like, “Get online, make sure all the fans are talking about this, and make sure that these people know that I need to be in these films!”

I think one of the greatest parts of the documentary is a part that I didn’t direct. Throughout the film we use lots of animation and lots of kind of crazy stuff to tell his stories, and we got a guy called Dave McKean.

Quickbeam: (shocked) Dave McKean of The Sandman fame!!?? The Dave McKean, who does those extraordinary multi-disciplinary, multimedia covers for all of Neil Gaiman’s books and graphic novels?! The Dave McKean who got pulled into the Netflix series to do those weird and beautiful multimedia closing credits sequences?

Jon: Yes! The crazy thing is, I said to him, “You don’t need to consult with me on this.” Without much time, I was expecting kind of a series of slightly moving images like an animatic. But his animatic was really good. How is he going to do it better than this? He ended up doing a whole studio shoot. He created full masks for people. He created a set. And he composed a score for it.

The best part is, Dave Mckean chose to animate the moment where Christopher Lee met J.R.R Tolkien!

The filmmakers express gratitude to @archmodelstudio for their great assistance creating this puppet!

On the Future of Saruman

Justin: For these recreation scenes, now there’s A.I. where you can do voice duplication.

Jon: We went even better than that. Have you heard of Peter Serafinowicz?

Justin: Darth Maul?

Jon: He was our first choice. And he was absolutely amazing. He’s very famous over here as a comedian. Had his own comedy show, and he was on a lot of other kind of shows. And he actually does great work.

Justin: With new Lord of the Rings coming from Peter Jackson and Prime Video, is the technology advanced enough to digitally recreate Christopher Lee’s Saruman? Or do you think recasting Saruman in these new tales is a better path?

Jon: I think recasting. I’ve talked to a lot of people and I’ve looked at deepfakes a lot, but he has qualities that can’t be echoed. I always think back to Rogue One where they kind of tried to do Peter Cushing, and you just go: “But it’s not him!” And at the end they did Carrie Fisher and you just go: “But it’s not her.” It feels off. You can’t recreate life. Not close up. Not that kind of thing. You can’t. The human eye is something which can’t be replicated because it’s the window to the soul. Everything that’s ever happened to someone is kind of behind their eyes.

It’s great for creating creatures and it’s great for creating original things. But if you’re trying to replicate a human being, I honestly don’t think it’ll ever get there. I think there is an anarchy in organic chemistry which will never quite be replicated.

Order the Compete Documentary on Blu-ray

You can watch the entire 90-minute conversation with the director of The Life and Deaths of Christopher Lee on YouTube. Clifford “Quickbeam” and Justin dive in deep with Jon Spira about the myths and legends about Lee, his core drives in life, and how much LOTR fandom really meant to him. Order your copy of the full documentary + bonus features, including interviews with Peter Jackson and Lee’s family, on Kickstarter now.

It’s Friday 17 May 2024 – and a seismic shift in The Lord of the Rings adaptations has been felt around the world. Here’s all the news you may have missed:

Rings of Power S2 gets a trailer, a date, and a BTS video

Prime Video unveiled season 2 of The Rings of Power at their UPFRONTS, an advertising industry event designed to lure more advertisers to buying commercials during shows. Prime also updated the show’s social media handles from LOTRonPrime to @TheRingsOfPower and released a 3 minute Behind-the-scenes look at S2.

Season 2 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power debuts Thursday August 29, 2024 with a 3-episode premiere, then settles into weekly episodes for the remaining 5 weeks.

LEGO Barad-Dur tower date and price

The 5,471 piece set is available June 1 for $459.99.

Andy Serkis to direct The Hunt for Gollum movie

The first movie in the new WB LOTR license is The Hunt for Gollum, directed by Andy Serkis, who also will play the character again. Produced by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, with a screenplay by The War of the Rohirrim writers Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou. Read more about how they landed on this particular story in the Legendarium.

In a technical slip up, the automated YouTube and WB copyright system temporarily took down the 15-year-old fan film The Hunt for Gollum, which was back up within hours and is still free to watch.

Rohirrim preview in June while scoring continues remotely

Exec Producer Jason Demarco announced a “big chunk of the film” will be screened at Annecy animation festival in June, and shared a new logo for the movie.

Composer Stephen Gallagher continues to post updates on the scoring of the new Anime LOTR movie coming this December.

Other LOTR news

Middle-earth Enterprises owner Embracer Freemode shared an in-depth interview with CEO Lee Guinchard, where he lays out the strategy going forward to build The Lord of the Rings into a premium, high quality brand that is collaborative and fan-first.

LOTR Executive Producer Mark Ordesky has teamed up with the Blair Witch creators to launch a new fantasy project: an omni-channel disc-world universe with a dice game on Kickstarter.

Black Milk Clothing has finally restocked its official LOTR apparel, including this Arwen dress.

Christopher Lee feature-length documentary, featuring a brand new interview with Peter Jackson, enters its final Blu-ray pre-order days with a Dracula inspired premium box set.

The Hunt for Gollum Producer Peter Jackson has opened up to Deadline on why this story, and this character, are right for this crucial moment to extend a Middle-earth resume that’s reaped $6 billion at the box office. It is a follow-up discussion to the Middle-earth shattering announcement of two new The Lord of the Rings movies from last week.

There’s so much to digest from Deadline’s extended conversation with Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Andy Serkis.

“The Gollum/Sméagol character has always fascinated me because Gollum reflects the worst of human nature, whilst his Sméagol side is, arguably, quite sympathetic. I think he connects with readers and film audiences alike, because there’s a little bit of both of them in all of us. We really want to explore his backstory and delve into those parts of his journey we didn’t have time to cover in the earlier films. It’s too soon to know who will cross his path, but suffice to say we will take our lead from Professor Tolkien.”

Peter Jackson, via Deadline

The new feature film, The Hunt for Gollum (tentative title), seems to be a natural follow up from the writing and producing team behind The War of the Rohirrim. Newcomers Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou wrote Rohirrim under the watchful guidance of Oscar winner (and Phoebe’s mother) Philippa Boyens, and the results have been impressive enough that they are already been engaged to work on this second Middle-earth film.

Peter Jackson and partner Fran Walsh are not officially involved in Rohirrim, but the activity around Weta from all their old collaborators may have been enough inspiration to get back into the game. Just as his original plan for The Hobbit was to hand off directing duties to someone else, Jackson has brought in Gollum himself Andy Serkis. “Their search for excellence never ends, and now I get to help reach that bar again. It was Philippa who first called me actually and said, look, this is what we’re thinking. And I was just flushed with a sort of, oh my God, I’m going back in there,” says Serkis.

Andy was already shooting his shot early last year, telling BroBible he was ready to come back on one condition: that Jackson is involved.

The Imaginarium production company, founded by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish, will help bring The Hunt for Gollum to life. They previously made Mowgli on Netflix and have three state-of-the-art motion capture studios in London, used on everything from Planet of the Apes movies to Napoleon. Andy is excited to film Gollum with complete mobility and freedom that the latest technology from Apes and Pirates movies now allow, and he is hyping up a more expressive full-body performance for this new iteration of the character.

Andy Serkis has kept busy directing feature films Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, Breathe, and Animal Farm. Fans who have watched PJ’s The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Appendices will of course know Serkis was Second Unit Director on The Hobbit films. He has also received accolades playing Caesar in the recent Planet of the Apes movies, setting a new standard for digital character performance.

How does The Hunt for Gollum fit with the LOTR trilogy?

“We don’t want this film to be just the fourth film in the trilogy. This film has to work in its own way,” Jackson tells Deadline. “I know there’s plenty of people out there who will be like, oh no, why are they doing this? Why are they going back in? Well, that’s our job. Our job is going to have to be to prove why we think that it’s a good idea.”

So it’s absolutely thrilling to be able to go back and do a deep dive into his world again, and specifically into Gollum’s psychology. I know we’re all interested in investigating on a deeper level who that character is, and on top of that, to be able to direct and hopefully create a film which has its place within the canon, but also something that’s fresh and new and a different approach.”

Jackson confirms the films will shoot in and around New Zealand.

What characters will be in The Hunt for Gollum?

“We are just literally having very early state script discussions and ideas of exactly where and how we’re going to drop anchor with [Gollum] and his journey and how he is or comes into contact with other characters, and the characters that we know and don’t know. So still, I would hate to say anything that’s going to commit us at this point, because it’s literally all up for grabs.”

“We have the right to The Lord of the Rings and the appendices, and that’s it,” says Philippa Boyens. “Fans always get nervous that there’s only so much story that is in there. But look at War of the Rohirrim. It’s a page and a half at first glance in the books. But there are lots of threads in there throughout the book.”

But really, why Gollum?

“Gollum’s story is one of the most compelling to us in terms of a character that we couldn’t go as deeply into as we wanted to before, which sounds strange when you say that, given how familiar he is to everybody,” Boyens told Deadline. Gollum had 34 minutes of screen time in the LOTR trilogy, just above Legolas and Gimli who both have 31 minutes, plus he’s featured in The Hobbit in a big way. According to LOTRProject Gollum is the most-mentioned antagonist in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books. Only eight characters receive more mentions across all the books, and they are all the main heroes. Of course, the data may be skewed because he always coughs his name twice.

Read the whole interview with Andy, Peter, and Philippa at Deadline.

Headline Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic (Getty Images)

BREAKING NEWS: it seems that Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Andy Serkis are all going there and back again, as Warner Bros. today issued an astonishing press release:



Burbank, CA — May 9, 2024 – Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group’s Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy announced today the Oscar-winning team behind the nearly $6 billion blockbuster Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyensare reuniting to produce two new films from Tolkien’s Middle Earth for Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema.

The first of the two films Lord of the RingsThe Hunt for Gollum(*WT)will be directed by and star Andy Serkis (Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle), with Walsh and Boyens set to write the screenplay, along with Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou (Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim). The film will be executive produced by Ken Kamins, with Serkis and The Imaginarium’s Jonathan Cavendish.

Said De Luca and Abdy, “For over two-decades, moviegoers have embraced the Lord of the Rings film trilogy because of the undeniable devotion Peter, Fran and Philippa have shown towards protecting the legacy of Tolkien’s works, and to ensure audiences could experience the incredible world he created in a way that honors his literary vision. We are honored they have agreed be our partners on these two new films. With Andy coming aboard to direct Lord of the RingsThe Hunt for Gollum(*WT), we continue an important commitment to excellence that is a true hallmark of how we all want to venture ahead and further contribute to the Lord of the Rings cinematic history.”

Said Jackson, Walsh and Boyens, “It is an honour and a privilege to travel back to Middle-earth with our good friend and collaborator, Andy Serkis, who has unfinished business with that Stinker – Gollum! As life long fans of Professor Tolkien’s vast mythology, we are proud to be working with Mike De Luca, Pam Abdy and the entire team at Warner Bros. on another epic adventure!”

Said Serkis, ““Yesssss, Precious. The time has come once more to venture into the unknown with my dear friends, the extraordinary and incomparable guardians of Middle Earth Peter, Fran and Philippa,” said Serkis.  “With Mike and Pam, and the Warner Bros team on the quest as well, alongside WETA and our film making family in New Zealand, it’s just all too delicious…”.   

The announcement of the new films follows the previously announced New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Animation’s anime feature film Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim opening this Christmas. Directed by Award winning filmmaker Kenji Kamiyama (Blade Runner: Black Lotus and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series), the film is produced by Boyens, Joseph Chou (Blade Runner: Black Lotus), and Jason DeMarco.

The writing team of Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou penned the Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim screenplay based on a script from Jeffrey Addiss & Will Matthews. The Lord of the Rings returning creative team also includes Oscar winners Alan Lee and Richard Taylor, along with esteemed Tolkien illustrator John Howe.