Renown Tolkien scholar and author Tom Shippey is off the Lord of the Rings project, according to twitch broadcaster Tolkien Professor, confirming our early reports from March.
In a recent live stream from the Tolkien Professor – who we suggest watching & subscribing – Cory Olsen stumbles for words as he responds to a chat question about the status of his colleague Tom Shippey on Amazon’s LOTR series.
Olsen runs Signum University, the preeminent Tolkien scholar event series that travels the world bringing thoughtful, intelligent dialog to the world & works of J.R.R. Tolkien. His weekly LOTR streams have a dedicated audience that counts Stephen Colbert as an avid fan.
“I have spoken to Shippey… is he still involved? I don’t believe so.”
Cory Olsen, the Tolkien Professor
The early rumors of Shippey’s status set the community ablaze, with both reddit threads and YouTube comments becoming hotbeds of debate. On an early March episode of TORn Tuesday, it was revealed that none of the writers were currently engaged on the production and that the latest rumor was Tom Shippey was off the project. See TORn Veteran Quickbeam’s reaction starting 16:00 minutes into the show:
Fans hopes & concerns were calmed in 2019 when Amazon released a video that includes Tom Shippey in the creative team behind its billion-dollar LOTR series. Out of all the extremely talented people involved, Shippey brought a sense of authority and respect for Tolkien alongside artist John Howe. For many fans, Shippey is the iron rock that will ensure Amazon maintains fidelity to Tolkien — keeping the green showrunners in check with a focus on Tolkien’s intent. With his involvement diminished, Amazon risks alienating core fans and losing credibility among the show’s biggest champions.
Neither Amazon nor Shippey has publicly commented on the current status of their relationship. With the Tolkien Professor independently hearing the same things TORn Tuesday is hearing, there must be some truth in the air.
Tell us your thoughts! Are you concerned? Engage with us on Facebook and Twitter (@theoneringnet) to share your opinion!
Add these to your queue for a taste of the creative talent behind Amazon’s $1 Billion LOTR series
Amazon’s billion-dollar Lord of the Rings series is in production but fans want to know what to expect now that Peter Jackson isn’t crafting Middle-earth. Since many are in quarantine and looking for shows to watch, we have put together a comprehensive list of films & TV shows which the current LOTR production team have previously worked on to provide a sense of the talent behind the series. Many of the writers have worked on other book adaptations, sometimes with actors from Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films!
Note: all watch suggestions are based on U.S. platforms, check your local region for each of these!
Penny Dreadful pilot S1E1 – S1E2
Watch on: Showtime, Amazon Prime
LOTR Director JA Bayona directed the 2-episode pilot of Penny Dreadful, setting the tone for the entire series. He is currently filming the 2-episode pilot of LOTR.
A Monster Calls
Watch on: Cinemax
Bayona directed this powerful fantasy drama of loss, despair, love and family – themes familiar to Tolkien’s Legendarium.
Watch on: Amazon Prime
LOTR writer Helen Shang was deeply involved in crafting the Red Dragon storyline for NBC’s Hannibal series, featuring Richard Armitage (Thorin).
Hooded figures seen in the dense forest under cover of night!
Here’s a phrase we haven’t used in a long, long time: A Spy Report from the set of Lord of the Rings! Ringer “David” sends word of “Hooded Guys” from the riverbanks of Auckland:
The photos were made in or near the circle. Although I walked pretty much around it nothing could be seen. Maybe there wasn’t a set anymore, maybe trees/hills got in the way. One of the people who lived there told me there was filming in the dark with bright lights on for 4 hours (I think Monday last week). He didn’t know what it was. Afterwards he saw hooded guys (which normally doesn’t mean good things) so he walked up and spoke to them. They were telling it was for filming ‘the new Lord of the Rings’.
The “circle” he references is the blue one on the far right edge of this map, while the photos below indicate a heavily wooded area where vans full of production gear were loading out.
Photos provided in the Spy Report show what is possibly the codename for the production: “GIN”
It always comes down to some wacky code word they use on set location signs. Back in the day of filming the O.G. Trilogy as Peter Jackson and team were traipsing around both North and South Islands with multiple Film Units the dead giveaway was any sign that said “JAMBOREE.” Even script pages and daily Call Sheets were printed with the pretend Boy Scout name. Many of our community members remember that code word from twenty years ago!
What can we really tell from these spy photos? Just that they’re quick to arrive and quick to leave. These actual set locations are in the past tense, so to speak. Production has already moved on from these woods as Amazon’s “2nd Age of Middle-earth” series pilot episode director J.A. Bayona posted a photo from a dry field area.
Only days ago one of the new cast members of Amazon’s $1-Billion production posted the words: “Calm before the storm.” British stage actress Sophia Nomvete is filming her first days on set for a brand new character to the Tolkien Film Legendarium.
How many of you are familiar with the physical features in this area? Any Kiwis down there who can tell us the lay of the land — what types of trees, the slope of the elevation, any such unique features that might suggest a location in Númenor or the mainland of Eregion, things like that — would be a great place to start our guesswork!
Thank you for the first Amazon LOTR Spy Report, David! If anyone else in the Auckland area notices anything… unnatural… please email email@example.com or hit us on Twitter & Instagram DM’s.
J.A. Bayona, director of the upcoming Amazon series set in the Second Age of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, has arrived in Auckland and filming has begun! Well, okay, the film clip he posted to Instagram features no actors, unless the small bird in Fraser’s cafe in the urban setting of Mount Eden, a suburb of Auckland, is somehow related to the thrush of The Hobbit fame. According to Stuff.co.nz “the first piece of film he appears to have shot in New Zealand is a snapshot from Frasers cafe in Mount Eden. Bayona shared the clip to Instagram this morning. The camera appears to be focused on the cafe, then swings down to track a hopeful sparrow as it hops around some tables in search of crumbs.”
Watch the short clip here. Considering the cafe is in a very urban setting, with narry a dragon or dwarf in sight, it’s likely it was just a spur-of-the-moment snap from his phone, but exciting nonetheless.
Quoted from Deadline by Stuff:
“J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring
stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honour and a joy to
join this amazing team,” he said in a statement to Deadline.
“I can’t wait to take audiences around the world back to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story.”
In addition to directing, Bayona will also be an executive producer for the LOTR series alongside his producing partner Belén Atienza. He has been warmly welcomed by the writing team, lead by JD Payne and Patrick McKay and consulted by Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman.
Read more of the story at stuff.co.nz, and let us know, aside from the bird in the cafe, what in the Second Age you think the first ‘real’ filming will likely cover!
Collider announced earlier today that 23 year-old British actor Maxim Baldry “has landed a significant role” in the upcoming Amazon Middle-earth TV series. Baldry is perhaps best known so far for his role in the 2019 BBC/HBO joint production series Years and Years. According to Collider: “Character details are being kept under wraps along with plot details.” While that doesn’t give us a lot to go on, ok almost nothing to go on, we do know that the new series is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, which narrows down, if only slightly, what “significant role” might imply.
Talent, locations, infrastructure and a warm Kiwi welcome. According to Pam Ford from the Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development agency in this piece from Radio NZ, those were the determining factors in Amazon Studios’ decision, confirmed on Tuesday, to film the upcoming Middle-earth-based TV series in New Zealand.
Quoted in stuff.co.nz, showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay described New Zeland as indeed offering all of the criteria they were looking for: “As we searched for the location in which we could bring to life the primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle Earth, we knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains, that also is a home to world-class sets, studios, and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff”.
“And we’re happy that we are now able to officially confirm New Zealand as our home for our series based on stories from J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings. The abundant measure of Kiwi hospitality with which they have welcomed us has already made us feel right at home, and we are looking forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come.”
No doubt the prospect of a 20% to 25% rebate for every dollar spent also contributed to the ‘welcome’ factor. The good news for New Zealand is that Amazon will be spending approximately $1.0 billion of those dollars ($1.3 NZD) and will likely provide jobs that will spill over from the film industry to affect the rest of the economy for up to a decade.
Read more about the Auckland studios where filming will take place in our article from June, and be sure to listen to the full radio story linked above as it features our own staffer Garfeimao (Cathy Udovch)!
This is a follow up to the story announcing Amazon’s release of the LOTR series creative team (see link below), with a breakdown on what this announcement means for the future of the show. Afterwards, there will be a ‘reaction’ story from a Tom Shippey interview that occurred on the same day as the video was released.
Justin, the producer of our TORn Tuesday live streaming series breaks down the Amazon creative team announcement:
“This Creative Team has something for everyone that it almost feels generated by an algorithm to appeal so perfectly to all fan groups. Howe & Shippey lock in the core book, art & film fans.
Amazon got what it explicitly wanted day one — the next Game of Thrones — with 2 of the key people from HBO’s Thrones now on LOTR. Amazon is also following in the (successful) footsteps of Thrones by handing the show to a couple guys who have never produced anything, similar to HBO letting Benioff & Weiss run Thrones with zero producing experience.
JA Bayona is an inspired choice as he is Guillermo del Toro’s protege in dark storytelling. GDT financed Bayona’s first few projects and helped put Bayona on the map. With Amazon, fans may finally get something akin to what The Hobbit was shaping up to be under del Toro. Some Weta folk felt that the costume & prosthetic orc work they did under Guillermo del Toro was the best the workshop had ever done, so it would be wonderful to bring forth some of that practical creativity under GDT’s heir apparent Juan Antonio Bayona.
“Peak TV” fans will appreciate the writers room of people who wrote some of the best episodes of Westworld, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Hannibal. Those are all somewhat dark & twisted fantasies which LOTR second age also is.
Amazon’s corporate development team along with this LOTR writers room and production team is probably the most diverse multi-lingual creative group ever to work in Middle-earth. Tolkien wrote that LOTR is “fundamentally linguistic in inspiration… “ so it is wonderful to have a global group of filmmakers bringing in the next chapter of Tolkien’s legacy.”
Shortly after the video was released by Amazon, Tom Shippey did an exclusive interview with the folks at Tolkien Gesellschaft and he let a few very interesting tidbits out of the bag.
Shippey confirms this map is from the Second Age, but then also admits we don’t know a lot of detail about the Second Age, and that the end of the Second Age on a map looks much like the beginning of the Third Age. Of course, with Numenor on the Map, that puts us closer to the early or middle part of the Second Age. He stresses that you have to be clear where in Middle-earth history the story will begin so that it matches what this map is hinting at.
Another really important fact is that Shippey clears up a lot about what sort of filming rights Amazon has, and how much freedom they do and don’t have when filling in the empty spots in their stories. Amazon must follow the history that Tolkien did write, such as Sauron invading Eriador, being forced back by a Numenorean force, his return to Numenor and seducing them to break the ban with the Valar. So, they have a road map, but they get to choose the route and fill in all the things seen and encountered on that road.
Shippey doesn’t know much detail on when and where filming will begin, but we previously announced that New Zealand looks to be where the bulk of filming will be. He also mentioned that a Brian Miller was supposed to be the overall director, but since he didn’t feature in the video he surmises that things changed. It is interesting that Shippey seems to share our desire that more news was forthcoming. Yes, all these little teases arouse curiosity, but sooner or later you have to satisfy that curiosity.
Read the article to learn more details from Tom Shippey.
Amazon Prime’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have just dropped a new video introducing fans to the team of creators behind their new “Lord of the Rings” Prequel Series!
This includes such faces as showrunners J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay, as well the vast team of accomplished writers, producers, director J.A. Bayona, our beloved Tolkien artist John Howe and renowned Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey (yours truly would be lying if he didn’t say these last two fill him particularly with joy!).
And so it begins! The first news of who will be cast in the Amazon series set in Middle-earth was announced yesterday. According to Variety.com, actress Markella Kavenagh is in talks to join the cast. Kavenagh is best known for her parts in several Australian TV series, including Picnic at Hanging Rock, and in 2018, won the Best New Talent award from the AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts).
The name of the character Kavenagh’s is set to play is rumored to be Tyra. This has some fans around the internet fretting due to 1) similar to Tauriel of Hobbit fame, the name Tyra isn’t found anywhere in Tolkien’s published literature, and 2) it sounds too much like Arya. However, as our sources tell us, it’s not uncommon to use code names for characters during the auditioning process. Still, even if the character’s name really is Tyra, character names outside of Tolkien’s legendarium are probably inevitable (Lurtz, anyone?), and don’t necessarily reflect badly on the entire endeavor.
This just in from Newstalkzb.co.nz: according to an unidentified senior member of the Auckland film industry, a ‘huge’ part of Amazon’s new series will be filmed in NZ. According to the article, Kumeu Film Studios and Auckland Film Studios are mentioned specifically to be involved. The insider told the Herald that an announcement could be expected soon, as the leases are due to take effect in July. Apparently, the two studios mentioned have been working on pre-production for more than a year. However, everyone was required to sign confidentiality agreements. The insider source did mention that an official announcement should be coming soon, as the leases related to starting production are due to take effect in July.
According to their websites, both Kumeu Film Studios and Auckland film studios offer sound stages, workshops production offices and, at Kumeu studios, 12 hectares (30 acres) of forest and large water tanks (which could come in handy should the series include the destruction of Numenor at the end of the 2nds age). Of course, location shooting will also be an option in order to take advantage of the same natural beauty and diversity of the various landscapes that made The Lord of the Rings films so memorable.
How does this new rumor fit in with previous rumors that filming was going to be done in Scotland? Given the ease of communicating globally these days, there’s no reason both countries (or more) can’t be involved. The film industry insider’s comment that a ‘huge’ part of the series will be filmed in New Zealand also implies that at least part of it will not. In any case, it sounds like we’ll be getting more updates in the near future! Stay tuned to TheOneRing.net as we keep you posted!
Earlier today, Amazon Prime revealed yet another map of Middle-earth, along with text completing the Ring Verse, then the words: Welcome to the Second Age. True to those words, the new map reveals Numenor, which sunk beneath the ocean near the end of the Second Age. This confirms one thing at least, that Amazon’s film right extend beyond what’s between the covers of ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ as the only map of Numenor in Tolkien’s works appears in ‘Unfinished Tales.’ Other than that, the possibilities for the direction(s) the story will take us are almost endless both with respect to Numenor, and what was happening in Middle-earth at the time. Take a good look at the map and read on!
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