Amazon is jumping into the deep end with their upcoming Lord Of the Rings prequel series. The company has made a major deal with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema – a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment which produced Peter Jackson’s (mostly) well-loved films – to bring the show to their streaming service.
No exact numbers have been released, but the deal, which was passed up by HBO and Netflix, is reportedly in the $250 million range for the rights alone. On top of procuring the rights to the material, Amazon will be spending the hundreds of millions on production costs required to produce a quality fantasy adventure. The potential cost sets the show up to be the most expensive series of all time. This is a big deal for Amazon, but if the series is half as popular as the film franchise, with profits ranking in the billions, they’ve chosen wisely.
The series will feature new stories preceding J.R.R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring and reportedly includes the potential for at least one spin-off. Hardcore fans of Tolkien’s work may be relieved to hear the estate is ensuring that the canon is closely adhered too by placing restrictions on what can be done with the writer’s universe.
“We are delighted that Amazon, with its longstanding commitment to literature, is the home of the first-ever multi-season television series for The Lord of the Rings,” said Matt Galsor, a Tolkien Estate and Trust and HarperCollins representative. “Sharon (Tal Yguado, Head of Scripted Series at Amazon Studios.) and the team at Amazon Studios have exceptional ideas to bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.”
Depending on how long before Fellowship the series occurs, many of the works beloved characters would be ruled out of potential appearances, but one old wizard would be a welcomed addition. The talented Sir Ian McKellen himself has expressed his interest in reprising his iconic role as Gandalf the Grey/ White.
The idea of a new Gandalf for the series came up on last weekend’s Graham Norton Show, and the actor balked at the sheer idea of such a thing:
What do you mean, another Gandalf? I haven’t said yes because I haven’t been asked [to return]. But are you suggesting that someone else is going to play it? Gandalf is over 7,000 years old, so I’m not too old.
McKellen’s offer admittedly made us giddy, but thus far there have been no casting announcements and there is not much more we know about the project. McKellen may be ready to robe up, but another familiar face looks like a hard pass.
Andy Serkis told The Hollywood Reporter his view on the subject:
“I don’t know if I’d want to go back into the Lord of the Rings realm,” he said. “I feel like I’ve spent a large chunk of my life doing that. I’ll say good luck and I think fresh eyes are probably a good thing.”
Jackson’s record-breaking, award-winning films brought Tolkien’s work to life, and to a new generation of fans, but while he is responsible for how many see the LOTR universe, there is no word if the director, writer, and producer will be involved.
In a perfect world, we will meet some new characters while having visits from others who have longevity on their side. Galadriel and the many other wizards found only in the books, including the divisive Tom Bombadil, could easily make appearances.
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Images: New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Entertainment