The Amazon production of its Middle-Earth stories has been ongoing, but now we are in a time when the arrival of information from them concerning this production is accelerating.
The One Ring staff has been fans of J.R.R. Tolkien for quite some time, and it has always seen its core mission to be defined by its tagline: “By and For the Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien.” This site tries to do many things in support of this mission: support and celebrate fandom and fan activities – from costuming, to open invite events, to the line parties during the films, to group re-reads of Tolkien’s works, to so much more. However, this site has been humbly privileged to not only be supported by fans of Tolkien, but to be given access to many people involved in the production of adaptations of Tolkien’s work. The One Ring takes this gift of access seriously, and wants to do what’s best by the fans to make the most of this access, and to represent the best interests of the fans to these productions, so that the best possible adaptations of Tolkien’s work are made.
A few things have become clear to the staff of The One Ring (TORn) over the twenty years of its existence – time spent discussing and dissecting 6 major films, a handful of stage productions, multiple audio recordings, collectible figurines, and so much more. TORn has learned that what matters most is this:
“The more an adaptation sticks to the spirit and the motivation behind Tolkien’s work, the more successful it becomes, in both the short and long term, in both critical reception, and financial return.”
Over the years, TORn has learned an important lesson: if we, as fans, wish to have any influence over adaptations, we need to follow two important rules: first, we try to avoid quibbling over tiny details, and second, we gladly support the assignment of production staff, both in front of and behind the camera.
So, in terms of offering any constructive critique (pro or con), The One Ring will focus on trying to influence the productions to stay fidelitous to Tolkien’s spirit. For example, those who adapt Tolkien’s work would do well to read his letter #246 in “The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien” to understand some of Tolkien’s subtle thoughts concerning the concept of ‘both intent and actions have consequences.’
As it concerns details of scripting and plot, TORn recognizes that adaptations will need to modify the story in various ways. While everyone will have their opinions on each and every detail, TORn realizes that changes need to be made, and the director and production company need to have freedom in telling the story. Without some degree of freedom, the best people will simply be uninterested in adapting a work. Therefore, while TORn will report on non-spoiling plot details that it becomes aware of, TORn commentary will be focused on, as stated above, encouraging production companies to stay true to the core spirit of Tolkien’s work. This is why, a few months ago, TORn pushed hard against even the possibility of gratuitous sexuality in adaptations.
As it concerns casting and the assignment of production staff, what TORn has seen, time and again, is that there is incredible initial fan reaction for or against newly named cast members, but that all the support or angst over an acting choice disappears once the adaptation is released. To quote a far better author than I, all of that angst is ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ Therefore, at this point, TORn almost universally celebrates the announcement of new cast and production staff, and wants to use whatever influence it has with them to encourage them to create performances that are fidelitous to the spirit of Tolkien’s work.
For some examples of this ‘unfounded sound and fury’ go back twenty years and consider how people were asking “Who is Ian McKellen? Can he play a convincing Gandalf?” “Who is Viggo Mortensen?” Can he carry 3 films as the action hero lead?” “Why is Elijah Wood – and isn’t he too young to play Frodo?” “Do we really want Rudy as Samwise Gamgee?” “Who is Miranda Otto? Can she play a convincing Eowyn?” My goodness; what time has taught us!
Again, one point is crucial so it bears repeating: TORn celebrates – universally – when staff is added to a production – both cast and crew. TORn does this because it has found that celebrating and supporting them encourages them in ways large and small to put in their best work – and to take more seriously comments TORn may make on choices that impact the core spirit of Tolkien’s work (as the staff of TORn best understands it.) TORn does this because it wants the best possible adaptations of Tolkien’s work to be released, so it focuses on what is most important.
Again, TORn has found that almost every debate about cast choice dies down once an adaptation is released, and then, it’s all about the strength of the performance of that cast, as individuals and as an ensemble. This is not just seen in casting of Tolkien-based productions, as shown in the examples above, but in every production, everywhere. For example, there was quite a bit of debate concerning the diversity of the original cast of ‘Hamilton’ – until it was released to pretty much universal acclaim.
Why does TORn focus on fidelity to the spirit of Tolkien? Why does it work to not get sidelined by other issues? To paraphrase a line from the Jackson adaptation of The Lord of the Rings…
“There was some good in the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien that motivated him to create his imaginary world in just the way he did. And it’s worth fighting for.”
Editor Note: Join TheOneRing.net as we focus on the recent cast member announcements for Amazon TV’s The Lord of the Rings inspired TV series. Throughout the month, and as part of our Tolkien Advent Calendar celebration, we will posting articles and cast profiles, as well as some other fun, all relating that to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien.