New Line Cinema and Adult Swim’s upcoming anime film spinoff to The Lord of the Rings, titled The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim, is still shrouded in mystery even after an industry-only preview last summer. The all-star production, starring Miranda Otto and Brian Cox, is led by Oscar winning LOTR Executive Producer Philippa Boyens and the highly respected production team behind Blade Runner: Black Lotus and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
The initial announcement in 2021 listed the Emmy winning writing team behind Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews, who spent a year exploring the story. Since then the script has gone through normal retooling, eventually landing a new credited screenwriting duo: Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou.
Billed as the next generation of writers by EP Boyens, childhood friends Phoebe and Arty initially were brought in to write background dialog for the movie. Through the creative process, it became apparent that their youthful perspective – raised on the exploding growth of anime — helped the film’s collaboration with the Japanese director Kenji Kamiyama and animation studio Sola Entertainment. Plus, who better to tell the story of Héra [Editor’s note: the name’s not taken from the Greek, but from the Anglo-saxon] than someone closer in age?
In a brand-new interview with Nerd of the Rings, writers Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou join excecutive producer Philippa Boyens for an in-depth conversation on bringing the history of Rohirrim and Rohan’s shieldmaidens to the big screen. Enjoy this exclusive preview of the conversation, edited for format and clarity, which will be posted in full tomorrow.
Delivering the characters where Kamiyama needs them to be
Q: Tell us a bit about Helm Hammerhand (namesake of Helm’s Deep from The Two Towers)
Phoebe: I find one of the most redeeming qualities of Helm in the film is his love for his children. Sounds a little cheesy but some of my favorite parts of the storytelling is the relationship between Helm and Héra (his daughter and main protagonist of the film). There’s a lot of tension and a lot of conflict there, but you know at the heart there is this deep father-daughter bond. Those moments were really special, writing and working on those. That’s one of my favorite things about Helm: this love for his children. It’s so nice.
How do we as writers deliver the characters to a place that Director Kamiyama want them to be at the end of the film? That was a really fun journey to try and take on, and figure out how to do that.
Q: Did you guys revisit the films before embarking on this?
Phoebe: Didn’t really need to. I grew up with them!
Arty: I grew up around the corner from Weta Workshop. But also growing up in Wellington at that time it was infectious. It was impossible not to be captivated by this huge film being shot in the hills behind you. At night you go to bed and you look up to the hills behind with film lights. Might be normal in other places, but it certainly wasn’t normal in Wellington. It really was just like the coolest thing! My friends and I still watch the movies every Christmas, so it wasn’t a matter of trying to fall back into the world of the cinematic Middle-earth. Here was a really amazing opportunity to try and think about animation and Anime, and how that could bring a fresh look not only visually but also thematically.
Philippa: I remember the hesitation. I thought you guys would turn us down (to write on Rohirrim)!
Arty: The deep respect for what had already been done! It’s stressful because what’s going on here? It’s just what comes with it. There’s these podcasts and bloggers and YouTube channels (looks at Nerd of the Rings) who are going to judge and fly out to your country to meet up with you while you’re trying to finish the film to make sure you’re doing a good job. So that was came with a lot of a lot a lot of trepidation!
Phoebe: For us, we didn’t see foresee that being a problem because so many of the same players are making this film. You have Philippa producing, but you also have the same sound teams. You have Mike Hedges (LOTR). You’ve got Steven Gallagher composing (The Hobbit). You’ve got John Howe, Alan Lee, Richard Taylor. For us, that opened up space to be like, how do we make this blend with the world of anime. It was actually more about coming from that direction. We knew the film was in pretty sick hands!
Q: Well you guys grew up on anime too.
Arty: We grew up not just on anime but Japanese cinema in general. That wasn’t the brief (for Rohirrim) but I was such a fan of different Japanese genre films and directors. It just seemed like, this is such a cool opportunity to draw on a whole bunch of other influences in adapting this material. It ended up going from this is really scary, to wowthis is so exciting. Then what sold us completely was seeing some concept art and it was like, oh hell yeah.
It also helped that we happen to be in Covid lockdown in Queenstown, and we’re walking daily by different LOTR film locations. So that probably helped a lot as well to get in the zone.
Phoebe: Yeah we were in the zone!
Q: Did you have any moments like that where you a saw an interesting connection to what has come before?
Arty: What is interesting is re-reading the books. You sort of pick up on different things and like, oh wow, it really is informed by some of these things which took place in the books. Whether at the time we were totally aware of it or not, you know it was just ingrained in us. That’s been interesting.
The full interview with Boyens, Gittins and Papageorgiou
Like what you’re hearing from the writers of the new LOTR film? This spur-of-the-moment opportunity for Matt (Nerd of the Rings) to chat with them during his filming schedule at Weta Workshop was a real treat one the first time these new writers have ever done an interview. The full conversation is 90 minutes on his YouTube channel. Join TORn’s daily active chat about Rohirrim on Discord.
Big thanks to Matt at Nerd of the Rings for sharing his exclusive interview for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. Watch the entire conversation on YouTube, and join us on TORn Tuesday as Matt talks about landing the interview and other fun facts he learned. War of the Rohirrim releases in December 2024 in theaters worldwide.
TORn’s complete The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim coverage
The Warner Bros. animated Middle-earth production, The War of the Rohirrim, is set to debut on screen on April 12, 2024.
The feature-length film is set to focus on the story of the Rohirrim king, Helm Hammerhand, as outlined in Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings.
Warner Bros. says that it will “explore… the untold story behind the fortress of Helm’s Deep, delving into the life and bloodsoaked times of one of Middle-earth’s most legendary figures; the mighty King of Rohan — Helm Hammerhand.”
Acclaimed filmmaker Kenji Kamiyama (especially known in anime circles for his work on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) is directing, while Philippa Boyens (co-screenwriter for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) is executive producer.
The writing team of Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou have penned the screenplay based on a script from Jeffrey Addiss & Will Matthews. The “Lord of the Rings” returning creative team also includes Oscar winner Richard Taylor and Tolkien illustrator John Howe, while animation is being done by Sola Entertainment.
If you don’t know Sola Entertainment, they have previously worked on the 2D-styled Tower of God (for streaming company Crunchyroll), Bladerunner Black Out: 2022, plus 3D efforts Blade Runner: Black Lotus and Ghost in the Shell SAC: 2045.
On the works so far, Executive Producer Philippa Boyens says: “I’m in awe of the creative talent who have come together to bring this epic, heart-pounding story to life, from the mastery of Kenji Kamiyama to a truly stellar cast. I cannot wait to share this adventure with fans of cinema everywhere.”
Warner Bros. also revealed that animation work has been underway since last year at Sola Entertainment, and voice casting will be announced very soon.
It’s probably not well known, but Kamiyama did an interview late last year with Japanese media outlet Akiba-Souken where he touched on his work on The War of the Rohirrim briefly.
TORn has the following translation of relevant pieces from that article and Kamiyama’s comments:
What makes anime an anime?
Kamiyama is busy working on a number of projects, including directing the spin-off anime “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” from the blockbuster movie “The Lord of the Rings.”
The soon-to-be-released “Star Wars: Visions – Ninth Jedi” is based on Kamiyama’s own ideas, he wanted to go back to the original story of a young man travelling the countryside, who gets involved in the battle over the Galactic Empire. Kamiyama was given the official Star Wars history lecture but also freedom to create his own story and setting within that realm.
Kamiyama is currently working on “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.” He says that “First of all, the existence of the live-action version of the “Lord of the Rings” series created by J.R.R. Tolkien’s original work and director Peter Jackson is tremendous. For Hollywood, there is no national policy for the film industry, but it has become a core industry of the region.”
“I feel that the small scale of Japanese animation is good, and that it has a different dimension from ‘true’ (ie live action) movie production,” he says.
“However, working on “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” has the difficulty and fun that makes me realize things like ‘probably Hollywood is making movies like this’.
“It’s completely different to working on other projects. Because we are focusing on making it as ‘entertainment’, it is possible to create works that guarantee a certain level of quality depending on the budget scale and staffing. There is a lot of discussion about the screenplay, the process is similar to building a stadium or a bridge. I think “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” will create a new level of animation production.”
Newly-announced 2D animated feature to be produced by Warner Bros. Animation and Adult Swim team.
The rumors are true: Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema held onto the feature film rights to Middle-earth and are expanding Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth Cinematic Universe with a new 2D animated movie ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.’ Directed by Kenji Kamiyama, who is celebrated for his work on ‘Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’ and ‘Ultraman,’ the studio has brought on the Emmy-winning writers who universally delighted fans with ‘The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance’ (creators Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews) to collaborate with Philippa Boyens.
Adult Swim’s Toonami executive Jason Demarco is on board as Producer. Besides being one of the leading creatives to bring anime to America, he is a huge Lord of the Rings fan and recently produced a Blade Runner anime series.
Wait, I thought Amazon had all the Tolkien rights now?
What we’ve heard from those who know, and reading the carefully worded press releases from both Amazon and WB over the last few years, here’s what is going on with the rights to Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings… The big thing is the fans win.
Allegedly the Tolkien Estate has brokered the rights to Middle-earth in such a way that Warner Bros. keeps feature film & motion picture rights, while Amazon can make all the TV series they want. In the first press announcement of the Amazon deal it was explicitly noted that Amazon intended “5 seasons minimum plus spinoff shows” — a clear sign that the monumental price would be recouped through many TV shows. Both companies own rights to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and *anything* mentioned in the Appendices. Amazon cannot make movies, and WB cannot make TV series. The most interesting part of this new ‘War of the Rohirrim’ anime is that WB is known for direct Blu-ray releases (their excellet D.C. Comics animated films) and TV series like the popular Harley Quinn. It seems neither WB, New Line nor Adult Swim have ever released a major anime film theatrically worldwide so this will be a first as legally they probably have to release it theatrically.
Will it be set in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth Cinematic Universe (the MeCU)?
YES. Warner Bros Animation head says “We’re honored to partner with much of the incredible talent behind both film trilogies” a direct acknowledgement of the intention to stay in PJ’s MeCU. Oscar-winning writer of LOTR & Hobbit Philippa Boyens is credited as a consultant on this production.
The anime story is centered on an earlier King, Helm Hammerhand, who left his legendary mark on the history of Rohan such that his kin still talk about him centuries later. “The horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the deep…” for the first time in this movie!
Our Staffer and Livestream Host Clifford “Quickbeam” Broadway has the most direct recommendation for those wanting details from Tolkien himself. Clifford states: “The most salient details of the Ninth King of Rohan are readily found in your copy of The Return of the King in APPENDIX A: ANNALS OF THE KINGS AND RULERS — just jump to Section II “THE HOUSE OF EORL” and find the paragraph opening with: ‘Of the Kings of the Mark between Eorl and Theoden most is said of Helm Hammerhand’ (page 346 HMCo Hardcover edition). And no, absolutely no, Helm Hammerhand did *not* become a Nazgul as depicted in the video game Shadow of War. Also there is a very brief note of reference Christopher Tolkien made: look at Unfinished Tales, Part Three: The Third Age, Section V “The Battles of the Fords of Isen” and see his endnote #4 if you’re as nerdy as I am about this.”
Kenji Kamiyama directed Ghost in the Shell and Eden of the East, and wrote for Blood the Last Vampire. Three of the best animes ever made. Now I’m incredibly excited about this, it’s like I had an early Christmas
“All of us at New Line feel a deep affinity for the extraordinary world J.R.R. Tolkien created, so the opportunity to dive back into Middle-earth with the team at Warner Bros. Animation is a dream come true. Fans know Helm’s Deep as the stage for one of the greatest battles ever put to film and, with many of the same creative visionaries involved and the brilliant Kenji Kamiyama at the helm, we couldn’t be more excited to deliver a fresh vision of its history that will invite global audiences to experience the rich, complex saga of Middle-earth in a thrilling new way.”
Warner Bros. Pictures Group COO Carolyn Blackwood and New Line president and CCO, Richard Brener
Harken back in time and you will recall that “The Hobbit” Rankin/Bass 1977 telefilm is billed as an American production but indeed was animated in Japan by TopCraft (much of this animation team would later go on to form Studio Ghibli, the standard-bearers of the greatest anime films ever). The team now working on ‘War of the Rohirrim’ is some of the top talent in the industry today. Casting is currently underway for voice actors, so we expect this new film to be released in theaters worldwide in 2023 or later.
Peter Jackson made a recent announcement on his facebook page that his next movie project will be adapting Philip Reeve’s book, Mortal Engines. The book is set in a post-apocalyptic future where cities move about on wheels, devouring smaller cities for their resources. The book is the first in a series of four books, presenting the opportunity for ‘sequels’ down the road.
The project will bring together many of the crew who worked on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises, including Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens who adapted the Mortal Engines script. The movie will be directed by Christian Rivers, the VFX master of The Hobbit. From Deadline Hollywood:
“Christian is one of my closest collaborators,” says Jackson in a statement. “The combination of emotion and jaw-dropping visuals in Mortal Engines makes this the perfect movie for his move into feature directing. What Christian intends to do with Philip Reeve’s terrific story is going to result in an original and spectacular movie. I wish I could see it tomorrow!”
The text of PJ’s facbook post is below
OUR NEXT MOVIE!
It’s been a quiet few months, but I’m very happy to tell you that our next project is now underway.
WingNut Films be producing a feature film based on Philip Reeve’s book Mortal Engines, to be directed by Christian Rivers. The script has been written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and myself.
Some of you may recall that Christian was going to direct the Dambusters a few years back. Since then he’s kept himself busy, making short films, and directing Second Units on The Hobbit and Pete’s Dragon.
Our involvement in Mortal Engines actually pre-dates Dambusters (which is still happening) – Christian actually worked on Mortal Engines previs way back in 2009. It’s very exciting to finally get it underway!
We’ve had the rights to Philip’s book series for several years, but have had to wait for the right time to make it.
If you haven’t read the books, you should. They present a stunning look into the future, when all of Earth’s major cities are now mounted on wheels, roaming across the landscape as massive “Traction Cities”. Our society has build itself on the principals of Municipal Darwinism – this basically involves the bigger cities hunting down, and consuming, the smaller ones. And that’s only the backdrop to an original and emotional personal story.
Philip Reeve has created a range of intriguing characters, following their adventures in our strange future world through four books – “Mortal Engines”, “Predator’s Gold”, “Infernal Devices” and “A Darkling Plain”.
The moment we read these novels, we knew what exciting movies they’d make. I literally can’t wait to see them!
The movie will be financed by MRC and Universal, and shooting will get underway next March, in New Zealand. Producers Zane Weiner and Amanda Walker, who both worked on the Hobbit, will be spearheading the NZ based team, along with Deborah Forte in the US.
No casting to announce yet, but Weta Workshop and Weta Digital are both onboard.
With the wheels now rolling on Mortal Engines, I’ll bring you a lot of news and sneak peeks at what we’re doing over the coming months.
Warner Brothers UK has posted a short new featurette on YouTube showcasing Laketown and Bard. Curiously, while the video appears to be meant as an advertisement for the new Blu-ray/DVD release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the video itself is not present in any of the bonus features on the set.
SoundWorks Collection recently took a trip to Wellington, New Zealand to speak with the wizards at Park Road Post Studios about their work on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. From these interviews comes a 10-minute video (which we’ve embedded below) detailing the tremendous process of constructing the sound design of the second film in Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation.
This profile comes on the heels of the Oscar nominations the film
received in both sound categories – Sound Editing and Sound Mixing (in addition to Visual Effects). The Academy Awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, March 2.