It is with a heavy heart that I write this news. Christopher Tolkien has passed away. He was 95 years old.
Christopher was the third son of our beloved author Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, and had spent much of his life honoring his father’s legacy and bringing us so many of the Professor’s works posthumously. He edited and published such monumental works as The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales, The History of Middle-earth and, in recent years, the individually released tales of The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien, and The Fall of Gondolin.
Looking for that perfect holiday gift for your favorite fan of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies? Look no further! Monday, December 16 could be your lucky day. That’s the day Julien’s Auctions, known for their auctions packed with Hollywood collectibles, will be auctioning off one of the original tobacco pipes used by Sir Ian Holm in his role as Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring! The pipe will come fully documented for authenticity by both Peter Jackson and Animation Designer and Supervisor, Randall William Cook.
According to the Julien’s Auctions website: Jackson personally gifted this production artifact to animation supervisor Randall William Cook in celebration of Cook’s 50th birthday during the making of the film. Included with the prop is the original birthday card from Jackson to Cook when the gift was presented to Cook on his birthday as well as a letter of authenticity from Cook.
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!).
Today sees the Digital Release of Dome Karukoski’s biopic “Tolkien”. Available now on all the usual digital platforms, the film is also set to be released on Blu-ray & DVD on August 6.
If you purchase the digital release from iTunes, you will own the film in both High Definition and 4K Ultra HD (although you will need an Apple TV device and a compatible 4K television to watch it in the latter format), along with all the bonus features that will also be available on the Blu-ray.
These include an Audio Commentary by director Dome Karukoski, a First Look Featurette, Photo Gallery and Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Karukoski.
This special edition looks at J.R.R. Tolkien’s history, creativity and his influence on current works in the fantasy genre.
This edition also includes articles on the biopic “Tolkien” in theatres now, and Amazon’s television series in a stunning, high-quality, glossy 100-page issue filled with full-page photos. Another wonderful collectible by Newsweek in its 3rd Tolkien Special Editions on newsstands and store check-out lanes until June 29, 2019. [Topix Media Specials]
I have a confession to make. I’ve become a relatively bitter Tolkien fan in the past 20+ years. Since founding TheOneRing.net with Corvar, Tehanu and Xoanon, I’ve gone through a devolution of my own personal fandom, that was neither apparent at the time, nor welcomed as a result. You see, when we started, so many ages ago, I had read The Lord of the Rings religiously every year since age 13. Every single year. It was a welcome escape from the challenges of 13-year-old-boy-dom. After all, I was a pretty damn awkward kid. I looked forward to the summer when I’d pore through the pages of Tolkien’s master work, and be whisked away on a journey in which I felt I was passionately participating.
When the idea of TheOneRing.net came to fruition, I was able to get that same satisfaction through simply enjoying the dawning of the internet age with other Tolkien fans online. I consumed everything and anything that was shared, written, argued, engaged, etc. That become my cup of Tolkien consumption for many years, lasting through the end of The Return of the One Party. Yes, through those years, I did not read a word of Tolkien – but the thriving community of TheOneRing.net kept me more than fulfilled.
Then came the in-between years – we can call them the dark times – that time when our personal interests fall to the side as we build up our family and professional lives. (Don’t get me wrong, those are great things on a personal level, but for my Tolkien fandom, that time was pretty dark.) I didn’t read a word of Tolkien, and I didn’t consume the output of the community that had sustained me for so many years. The significance of Tolkien in my life took a back seat.
Along came the excitement and rush of The Hobbit films! A return to the grandeur of the early 2000s, a thriving community engaged with a new vision…or was it really? The reality for many of us old-timers (BTW – I’m not ‘THAT’ old), was that the venture through The Hobbit films felt a bit more like Thorin’s struggles (*cough* gold fever) than true excitement. For me – and maybe not for you – it felt forced … non-organic. The community still thrived, however, and a whole new generation of Tolkien fandom was born.
But for me … I was done. Well, obviously not ‘done’ done. But I had reached my limit. I hadn’t read a word of Tolkien for years … decades … and I saw too much behind the curtain of the ‘business’ of Hollywood gleefully to ignore the obvious truths that evade most. (We won’t go into those here – let’s just say, behind the curtain is pretty ugly.)
Then comes the news of a biopic of Tolkien. *roll eyes* This bitter Tolkien fan immediately thinks, ‘Oh great. How are they going to diminish the legacy of one of the greatest authors and minds of all time? Will they make him out to be a racist? A religious zealot? Pull out some other horrific tidbit of information that could attempt to ruin a legacy?’ Yea, bitter. ‘What modern sensibility will we crucify Tolkien with today?’
Pretty sure that is as bitter as bitter gets. (Was anyone else there with me?)
When I was offered an opportunity to see Tolkien at the Montclair Film Festival in Montclair, NJ last night, I was just as bitter. It was cool that I would get to go see it early, but I was pretty well set for something annoying. Yes, a few other staff had already seen it and set praises upon it, but this bitter old fan chalked that up to youthful enthusiasm for community relevance. (Sorry folks, but that’s the truth!)
What I saw on the screen last night was quite unexpected. It was inspiring, tearful, joyful and engaging. It was exquisitely directed, and skillfully acted.
What I saw on the screen was a story I hadn’t known. It was obviously not just a reporting of Tolkien’s life; no, this was a unique interpretation of a famous life, pieced together from a relatively undocumented time. This is something that engaged this bitter fan from the first scene of WWI hell, to a realistic conclusion well before Tolkien’s published fame.
This is NOT a geek film. This is NOT a greedy attempt to piggy back on the success of LOTR, Hobbit or other fantasy films. This is a wonderful work of cinema that not only fully re-charged my interest in learning more about the one who started it all, but also my interest in re-reading the books.
Today, I made sure that The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books are front and center on my Kindle app. Guess what I’ll be reading later?
Congratulations to director Dome Karukoski (My new hero?) on an amazing film, worthy of the name of ‘Tolkien.’
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