We’ve known for months that Amazon is hard at work on a ‘Lord of the Rings’ series for their streaming platform. And they’d better be, given that they’ve made a multi-season commitment and sunk a reported $250 million into the deal. But how much else do we actually know about the show? While there’s been a good deal of rumor and innuendo, there’s little in the way of solidly confirmed information.
That’s perhaps not terribly surprising, given the deal between Amazon, publisher HarperCollins, and the Tolkien Estate and Trust was only announced in November. Given how early in development the project is and how much money is involved (to say nothing of the spotlight this show will find itself in simply by virtue of the enduring popularity of not only Tolkien’s classic novels but Peter Jackson’s Academy Award-winning adaptations of the same), it makes sense that the powers that be wouldn’t want to make any sort of announcement prematurely.
Despite that understandable caution, Jennifer Salke (recently named head of Amazon Studios) did share some new information on the series in the course of a wide-ranging interview with Deadline. When the subject was first raised, Salke noted that part of the reason for the paucity of information on the series is that the deal that makes it possible is, in fact, newer than any of us realized:
“Despite all the noise around ‘Lord of the Rings’, the deal only closed like a month ago. But in the meantime, I’ve sat with Simon Tolkein (son of longtime Middle Earth editor/custodian Christopher Tolkein and grandson of J.R.R.) for a couple of hours and Sharon (Tal Yguado, Amazon TV executive) has spent tons of time with them. She had spent the last couple of months meeting anyone who had said, “I’m really passionate about it and I want to get in and talk about the show and what’s possible.” I think you’ll see us honing in on a strategy in the next month, which might involve a group of writers. Clearly, there’ll be someone in charge, but it involves the estate and Peter Jackson, and there’s a lot of conversations.”
That last bit is particularly interesting given Jackson’s recent denial of any involvement with the upcoming series. In response to a follow-up question about Jackson’s involvement, Salke stated that conversations are taking place with Jackson, describing the gist of them as “How much do you want to be involved, how little?”. Furthering the ambiguity of the show’s relationship (or lack thereof) to Jackson and his films, Salke said that the show “might be” filming in New Zealand (where, of course, Jackson famously brought Middle Earth to life), saying that the intent is to go “somewhere interesting that could provide those locations in a really authentic way,” before concluding that “We’ll go where we need to go to make it happen.”
In addition to all of that, Salke also confirmed that (at least for the moment), Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ plans are for “one big series”. She remained vague on the subject of characters, however. When asked if the series would feature the same characters as the films, she replied:
“I think you can know that we’re not remaking the movies, but we’re also not starting from scratch. So, it’ll be characters you love.”
And so the plot thickens. While we’re still very early in the process, hopefully the ambiguity surrounding the series’ subject matter will pass sooner rather than later. It may well be that it depends on whether or not Jackson opts into the project. After all, if he comes aboard, it’s hard to imagine he’d want to retread the territory covered in his six films. By contrast, if Jackson’s time in Middle Earth is in fact behind him, the show may be more inclined to approach the material more as a new adaptation than a supplement to an existing one.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ series as it becomes available!