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).
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.
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!
In a TORn exclusive, we’ve learned Amazon Prime intends to not just break new ground in its new Middle-earth TV show, but blow fantasy apart with a bold move in the offing.Viewers will be able to interact with the show and decide what choices key characters will make. The choose-your-own-adventure approach could provide up to five hours of viewing per episode in the 10-episode first season.
Late last week, Amazon Prime began taking us on an intriguing journey though a version of Middle-earth where, presumably, their upcoming TV series will take place. Providing clues in the form of names of regions familiar to fans of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” books and movies, along with quotes from Tolkien’s Ring Verse, they’ve sparked internet-wide speculation about what the clues mean. Following is a recap of the hints so far, along with the top theories and takeaways from each.
The journey begins – Wednesday, February 13
On Wednesday, February 13, when Amazon posted a quote on various ‘lotronprime’ internet sites from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letter 144: “I wisely started with a map.” The full quote is: “I wisely started with a map and made the story fit. ” In that spirit, Amazon began feeding us a series of hints about how their story will fit into the map of Middle-earth. What regions, towns and cities will be involved? What people, animals and other creatures? We believe we’ll get the answers to many of these questions soon. Until then, Amazon seems to be taking another quote to heart from the same letter: “As a story, I think it is good that there should be a lot of things unexplained (especially if an explanation actually exists)!”
Top theories and takeaways:
• One rumor is that this is part of a 10-day marketing reveal. If that’s true, it would be wrapping up this weekend, or sometime next week, depending on when you start counting. Regardless of the exact timetable, it’s clear that Amazon will be posting more hints over time.
• Another rumor stems from a coincidence that after the first verse quoted, “Three rings for the Elven kings,” the next clue appeared three days later. Using that logic, the next quote, ‘Seven for the Dwarf Lords,” means the next clue will appear this Monday, February 25.
• Many fans are encouraged by the fact that Amazon is using quotes directly from J.R.R. Tolkien and his works out-of-the-gate, so-to-speak.
• Using the maps and Ring Verse to do their reveal is clever and imaginative, and great fun for fans!
Map 1 and the first line of the Ring Verse (Friday, February 15)
Two days after the first post appeared, a map of Middle-earth appeared along with the first line of Tolkien’s Ring Verse poem: Three rings for the Elven kings under the sky,”. The map itself was blank, but that didn’t stop speculation from one end of the internet to the other.
Top theories and takeaways:
• The mountains on the far east of the map are not on any maps drawn by either J.R.R. Tolkien or his son Christopher, but do appear on a version of a map from The Hobbit movies, and on a map included in Karen Wynn Fonstad’s “The Atlas of Middle-earth.” In the Atlas, they are labeled, “Orocarni (Mountains of the East).” From various sources, we know that “Orocarni” translates to “Red Mountains,” and that Tokien’s references to these mountains appear in “The History of Middle-earth” compiled by Christopher. We don’t know much about them except they were close to the location the Elves awoke.
• The map is definitely from either the 2nd or 3rd Age, as the lands from “The Silmarillion” that existed in the 1st Age are not on the map. This makes sense, because while we don’t know exactly what film rights Amazon prime has, it is believed they don’t have rights to material from “The Silmarillion.” Further, many fans believe the map has to be from the 3rd Age because it seems to reflect the severe deforestation that occurred in the 2nd Age when the Numenoreans harvested trees from Middle-earth to build their ships.
• The compass rose was taken from Fonstad’s “The Atlas of Middle-earth.” The compass points contain some inadvertent errors noticed by keen-eyed Tolkien geeks, explained in-depth on the Tolkien Guide website. However, the takeaway is that Amazon again is making an effort to reference Tolkien and Tolkien-related scholarship. Bravo!
• The ring verse line about the three rings contained a comma at the end, indicating more clues were on the way, and sure enough, they were.
Map 2 and the second line of the Ring Verse (Monday, February 18)
Three days after the appearance of Map 1, a new version of the map appeared with the second line of the Ring Verse (again with a comma at the end): “Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,”. This time, a number of regions names appeared on the map. All of the regions align with Tolkien’s stories and maps, but some names, such as Gondor and Eregion, are missing. Will they appear on future maps? Will the names of cities such as Rivendell and Minas Tirith appear? We don’t know, but it’s a safe bet that the answer is yes.
Top theories and takeaways:
• Many fans immediately noticed that the region widely known as Rohan is designated as Calenardhon. That name was used before Eorl the Young came to the aid of Gondor in the year 2510 of the 3rd Age. For his help, Eorl was awarded most of the area by Cirion, Steward of Gondor, and the Rohirrim renamed it Mark of the Riders, or Rohan. This could indicate that the TV series will take place prior to the region being renamed, not that it narrows things down much, as just short of 6,000 years of history occurred between the start of the 2nd Age and the year 2510 of the 3rd Age.
• If the above theory is correct, it could dash previous rumors that the series will follow a young Aragorn, as Aragorn wasn’t born until the year 2929 T.A., over 400 years after the region was renamed.
• Despite the appearance of the forests on the map looking like they’re from the 3rd Age, the continued use of the Ring Verse in the clues could indicate the story-line will center on the making of the Rings of Power themselves. The Rings of Power were forged by the Elves of Eregion starting around 1500 S.A., culminating with Sauron making the One Ring in the year 1600 S.A.. This theory could be solidified (or not) if Eregion appears on future versions of Amazon’s map.
There you have it! All of the major takeaways, theories and rumors from the clues we have from Amazon so far. Have you heard any other rumors? Let us know!
We recommend staying tuned here and on our facebook page for more up-to-the-minute news and analysis. We also highly recommend tuning in to TORn Tuesdays, where Cliff ‘Quickbeam’ Broadway and sidekick Justin gave an in-depth analysis of the map this past Tuesday, and will continue to bring everyone updates in the future.
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