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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power[1] (nicknamed LOTRonPrime on official social media[2]) is a forthcoming adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's writings under production by Amazon's film and TV division, alongside HarperCollins, New Line Cinema, Middle-earth Enterprises, the Tolkien Estate and the Tolkien Trust. The first season is scheduled to premiere on September 2, 2022.[3][4]

It will cover a time-span of Middle-earth's history in the Second Age, long before the setting of Tolkien's popular trilogy and before, but apparently in continuity with, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies. The series will be a Machiavellian drama led by Morfydd Clark as a younger Galadriel with Robert Aramayo as Elrond, featuring the forging of the Great Rings, the downfall of Númenor, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

The show's first season concluded filming in New Zealand in July 2021, with J.A. Bayona helming the two-part pilot episode out of a first season of eight episodes, to be followed by four more seasons (the next two of which have already been greenlit) and a possible spinoff show. The first season's budget is around $650 million NZD.

Seasons

Season Episodes First airdate Last airdate
One
8 episodes
September 2, 2022

Plot

The show is projected to progress at least five seasons[5][6] and some 50-hours of TV[7], and - possibly with a spinoff - over a period of eight to ten years;[8][9] and, as of November 2019, the first two seasons have been greenlit.[10] In January 2020, Amazon announced that the first season would consist of eight episodes.[11] The Tolkien Estate will reportedly have veto-power "on strategy and on vision"[12] and will maintain the "main shape of the Second Age".[13]

Premise

First look image, released by Amazon on August 2, 2021

The plot will cover events of the Second Age. A preliminary interactive map, featured on the Amazon Prime Video site,[14] pointed towards the show being set in the mid-Second Age, circa SA 1500-1701. However, recent character leaks show that the cast will feature characters from a much later period in the Second Age, such as Elendil and Isildur. The two periods will be condensed into a single timeline, to prevent jumps in time.[7] Both periods do not focus an adventure story, but rather Machiavellian drama.[7]

The earlier of the two epochs is centered around the forging of the Rings of Power in Eregion, whereby Sauron (disguised as Annatar) convinces Celebrimbor and the Mirdain guild to forge Rings of Power, against the advice of Galadriel and Gil-galad: in some versions of the story, Annatar even convinces the conflicted Celebrimbor to lead a coup that ousts Galadriel.[15] A leaked story synopsis[16] also points in this direction, as well as towards concurrent events in other realms of Middle-earth, namely Moria, and Lindon: led by Gil-galad and Durin III, respectively, they are trying to maintain their foreign relations with Eregion as it falls under Annatar's influence, and then fending his forces off during the War of Sauron and the Elves.[15] Many of these plot-lines will have to play-out in isolation before the war causes them to intersect, and as such as said to have separate units producing them.[17]

During this time, the Doors of Durin (constructed by Celebrimbor and his Dwarf friend Narvi) are shut, before Galadhrim reinforces pass through Moria to join Lindon forces led by Elrond (who then builds Imladris and begins a romantic relationship with Galadriel's daughter, Celebrían) in fending off Sauron's forces, before the Númenóreans under Ciryatur join from Lond Daer, as well.

However, the inclusion of Isildur and Elendil in the show points towards a late Second Age setting, adapting the Akallabêth, likely up to the events of the War of the Last Alliance and possibly the Disaster at the Gladden Fields. At this time, Númenor is ruled by the aging Tar Palantir and his daughter, queen regent Tar Miriel, before being ousted by his nephew Pharazon, much to the chagrin of their relatives of the line of the Lords of Andunie: Elendil and Isildur; Pharazon forces an incestuous political marriage upon Miriel and persecutes denizens labeled as "Elf friends." Meanwhile, Sauron and his minions challenge Pharazon, resulting in Sauron's capture which in the long-run only enables the Dark Lord to deceive Pharazon into mounting an attack on Valinor which results in the deluge of the islands. Elendil and his "faithful" flee and survive to establish the realms of Gondor and Arnor, and join forces with the Elves to topple Sauron. Isildur claims the Ring before his fall at the hands of Orcs at the Gladden Fields.

While time-jumps, necessary to cover the events of both epochs, had been rumored,[18][19][17] and even experimented with in early development,[20] the final series will feature a condensed timeline, with executive Jennifer Salke indicating it is "one big series"[21] and that season one will be "building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series."[22]

Source material

The series will explore times millennia before the years of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. Amazon cannot use events of the Third Age[13], while events from the First Age could only "be mentioned at the most if they explain the events of the Second Age", unless they are taken directly from mentions in The Lord of the Rings.[23][24] A first-look image seems to showcase the city of Tirion. The showrunners said that ""We have the rights solely to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the appendices, and The Hobbit, and that is it. We do not have the rights to The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth, or any of those other books.” However, the including of Tirion, Finrod and other elements would suggest that more material could be licensed to them on an ad-hoc basis.

Early on, New Line executives told HDRF the show will reprise visuals from the films,[25] and this was also the impression given to Peter Jackson from his talks with the executives, saying "the showrunners will "try to have a series and a world where it sort of fits with the films",[26] and "in the same world" as his films, agreeing to share his designs.[27] This was reiterated by John Howe, who said "The show runners are determined to remain faithful to the existing trilogies"[28] and that "its a continuation."[29] Orlando Bloom, having looked into the matter through Amazon producers, seems to have arrived at the same conclusion, as well, saying that "its not a remake"[30] However, "if only for legal reasons", the show cannot replicate specific props from the films, but has a similar design aesthetic.[31] Executive Jennifer Salke pointed out that "we’re also not starting from scratch."[21] Lead actress Morfydd Clark said she struggles with not being an "imposter" of the movie actors, saying "There’s a huge amount of respect for the films.”[32][33]

Source material for these periods includes mentions of the relevant events made in The Lord of the Rings, including in appendix A (The Númenórean Kings: Númenor) and B (The Tale of Years: The Second Age), but apparently also material licensed "other related works, in each case written or inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien"[34], which can include "Akallabêth" and "Of the Rings of Power" from The Silmarillion,[17] Unfinished Tales, namely "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn" and "The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor."

Development & reveals

Rights

Tolkien never sold the rights to adapt his works for TV, having in fact rejected some early propositions in 1964 and 1968.[35] Several unlicensed adaptations aired on TV in Eastern Europe beginning with 1972 Sagan om Ringen, but the Tolkien Estate had since taken actions against allowing them to air again outside their countries. United Artists, who acquired the film rights in 1969, were given first bidding at the film rights but, having failed to mount a successful film adaptation other than Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings, had declined to pursue the TV rights. [35] The Rankin/Bass TV Specials were made by exploiting a loophole in the US publication of the books, which temporarily made them public domain states-side.[36] In 1993, an adaptation comprising "two or three films, or an epic television series" was developed but could not get the rights.[37] In 1997, ITV Granada wanted to create a miniseries, but by that point a film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit as a prequel) was underway with director Peter Jackson.

The success of Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, followed by The Hobbit trilogy (and a putative "bridge" film pitched by Jackson but never made[38][39]) reinvigorated interest in the TV rights, although the Tolkien Estate, unsatisfied with the film adaptations up to that point, had declined to relinquish those or any other film rights. Jackson himself, in the audio commentary to the films, jested about a "spinoff TV series."[40]

In July 2017, a lawsuit was settled between Warner Brothers, the company behind the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, and the Tolkien Estate. With the two sides "on better terms" following the settlement, they began shopping a potential television series based on Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books to several outlets, including Amazon, Netflix, and HBO. [41] By September, Amazon had emerged as the frontrunner and entered negotiations for the series in co-operation with Warner Bros. TV.[42][23][43] In an uncommon move for programming developments at the studio, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was personally involved with the negotiations;[44] Bezos had previously given Amazon Studios a mandate to develop a fantasy series of comparable scale to HBO's Game of Thrones, which had made the company the lead contender for the project.[41]

In November 2017, Amazon Studios secured the rights to make a five-season production with the potential for spin-offs.[23] The rights alone cost $250 million[41]; the first two seasons could cost upwards of $500 million.[45] The deal between Warner Brothers and the Tolkien Estate includes the potential for a spin-off series.[46] New Line, the Warner Bros. division who produced the films, was included in the deal due to the potential for the series to use material from the films, with New Line president Carolyn Blackwood and Warner Bros. Pictures then-chairman Toby Emmerich - both of whom were executive producers on The Hobbit, were brought into the talks. The deal stipulated that production on the series begin within two years.[43] Amazon has no current plans to make any "publishing projects."[47]

The deal gave Amazon "access to nearly all of the material in the Middle-earth saga"[12] other than the First Age (except for references that crop-up in The Lord of the Rings) and, reportedly, The Silmarillion, which was the purview of the late Christopher Tolkien[20]. Executive Jennifer Salke described creative discussions with the Tolkien Estate (particularly Simon) as a "partnership" and that they are "really thoughtful and smart."[12] The Estate had met with prospective writers and showrunners,[20] for whom they had approval rights.

Around this time, Christopher Tolkien had resigned from heading the Estate[48] and his son, Simon Tolkien (a supporter of the live-action films[49]) had taken up a more active role in it alongside Priscilla Tolkien (who lent her support to Ralph Bakshi in his day), Baillie Tolkien, Michael George Tolkien, as well as their attorney, Steven Andrew Maier.

Coincidentally, the Estate released the book The Nature of Middle-earth, and HarperCollins intends to release a new The Lord of the Rings audiobook, perhaps to capitalize on renewed interest in the franchise prior to Amazon releasing the show. Indeed, other concurrent projects include video games, an animated film from New Line, The Collector's Edition of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies and possibly other publishing projects. Meanwhile, Middle-earth Enterprises briefly shopped around the film and gaming rights (said since then to enter mediation with Warner Bros.) and, as part of their cooperation with Amazon, motioned to register "The Rings of Power" as a trademark.[50]

Development

Fourth map of Middle-earth, released by Amazon on March 6, 2019

Early on during development, it was suggested the show would center around a young Aragorn,[20] a premise that had previously been a part of a possible "Lord of the Rings prequel" developed but never filmed by WingNut Films.[38] However, around April 2018 was decided to switch to "the story of Eregion" in the Second Age, in spite of concerns by Amazon that it "covered too long a span."[20]

Earlier, on February 13, 2019, Amazon's newly created Twitter account associated with the show posted the quote "I wisely started with a map." taken from Tolkien's Letter 144. Starting on February 15, and ending on March 7, different versions of a map of Middle-earth were released, first without labels, and each successive post including more labels than the previous map, and seemingly dating to a different period in Middle-earth history: mid-Third Age, early Third Age, and late Second Age.[15]

The final map released on March 7 showed a wider view of Middle-earth, including the island of Númenor and the Elvish realm of Eregion. A different section of the Ring-verse appeared with each successive post, until it was completed with the fifth map.[51] Assistance was given by Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey and artist John Howe in the tailoring of their interactive map.[52] Minor errata on the map were fixed after-the-fact, based on feedback from fans.[28]

A broader map, including Númenor, released March 7, 2019

Writing

A writers room for the series had begun work in Santa Monica by mid-February 2019. Salke described extensive security measures that were being taken to keep details of this writing secret, including windows being taped closed and a security guard requiring fingerprint clearance from those entering the room. In addition to Payne and McKay, writers on the series include Gennifer Hutchison, Helen Shang, Jason Cahill, Justin Doble, Bryan Cogman, and Stephany Folsom, with Glenise Mullins acting as a consulting writer.[53][54] The writers room was set to be disbanded once production on the series began, but would be reconvened during the four or five month break in filming that was scheduled following production on the first two episodes. The writers were expected to map out the second season and write the majority of its scripts during this production break.[55]

Locations

Salke said in June 2018 that the series could be filmed in New Zealand, where the films were produced, but Amazon was also willing to film in other countries as long as they could "provide those locations in a really authentic way, because we want it to look incredible."[21] Pre-production on the series reportedly began around that time in Auckland,[56] while location scouting for the series also took place in Scotland, with areas visited by the production including the Isle of Skye, Portpatrick, Scourie, Perthshire, and Loch Lomond.[57] Amazon and Creative Scotland held talks about the series' production being based at new studios that were under construction in Leith, Edinburgh.[58] In light of subsequent events and Amazon's contractual stipulation that they should have the liberty to shoot scenes outside of New Zealand, it may be that this was done to purely to put New Zealand in a competitive situation.

In December, Amazon held a "crisis meeting" with David Parker, New Zealand's Minister of Economic Development, after the studio threatened to take the production out of the country due to the lack of available studio space in Auckland.[59] During the meeting, Parker told Amazon they were welcome in New Zealand and the country's government wanted them to make the series there, but he did not propose any special deal for the series because "you don't want these things at any cost; you want them on terms that are good for New Zealand". New Zealand's Major Screen Production Grant, which provides up to a 25 percent refund in tax for international productions, was offered to Amazon for the series.[60] Amazon later received another $100 million boost from New Zealand.[9]

On June 30, the New Zealand Herald reported that the series would be filmed primarily in Auckland and Queenstown, among other locations in New Zealand.[61] Shooting of the series will be based on location rather than in-season chronology.[62] Amazon officially announced that the series would be filmed in New Zealand in September 2019, after completing negotiations with the New Zealand Government and the New Zealand Film Commission, as well as Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED). The studio said filming was set to begin on the series in "the coming months", with some specific locations still being discussed according to ATEED. Payne and McKay explained that in choosing the series' primary location, they and the production team had needed "somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains" that could also meet the production requirements of the series.[63][64] Amazon maintains the right to shoot some material elsewhere around the world if necessarily,[9] be it as leverage on N.Z. authorities but also to allow for a diversity of locations and for the availability of the cast.[34]

The series reportedly shot in several seaside locations in the vicinity of Auckland, including Piha, Muriwai (in a then-populated Gannet Colony), Anawhata and possibly Three Sisters Beach. Other locations include the forests in Piha, Fjordland (especially Mount Kidd) and Manapouri, as well Rangitikei, Denize Bluffs, Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel Peninsula. More than 1,000 New Zealanders were contracted for the first season, with around 700 more indirectly engaged with the production.[65]

For Season 2, production will move from New Zealand to the United Kingdom, possibly due to COVID restrictions, although plates from New Zealand could still be used and secondary units may keep shooting there. [66] Pre-production will begin in the "second half of half of 2022 or early 2023" at Bray Studios and Bovingdon Airfield among other locations with "half a billion pounds’ worth of production" costs,[67] with the season projected for "2023/2024" slot.[68] The move was reportedly made in part to accommodate actors' schedules (Morfydd Clark had since filmed The Duchess of Malfi and signed-on Starve Acre,[69] while Sir Lenny Henry was cast in The Witcher spinoff[70]) and to allow easy access to other European locations.[71]

Amazon's complete cast (as of Season One)

Casting

By July 2019, Amazon had embarked on a "multi-year search"[72] for actors. The showrunners and director JA Bayona[73] stressed the "diverse" and "international"[72] aspect of the cast, with several roles calling specifically for "diverse"[74] actors and actresses. Ultimately, the announced cast features actors hailing from the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and the United States. Between November 2019 and January 2020, various audition tapes,[75][76] as well as character descriptions,[74][77] had gradually leaked out.

On July 22 of 2019, it was announced that Australian actress Markella Kavenagh had been cast in the series,[78] with some reports that she would portray a character named "Tyra", or "Kyra". Three other placeholder character names were revealed as well: Beldor, Aric, and Eldien, with Conor Fogarty known to have auditioned for Beldor, Nick Hardcastle for Aric and Chloe Bremner[75] and Seána Kerslake for Eldien.[79] Auditions for other roles emerged later, with Joel Lambert, Chris Browning and Travis Johns auditioning for "Loda";[80] and Brian A. Wilson auditioned for "Hamsom."

From the tapes, it is apparent that a couple of characters, including "Brac", are Dwarves.[81] Other roles revealed since were that of "King Durin, father of Durin", codenamed "Khain"; Pharazon, codenamed "Welyn"; Tar-Palantir, codenamed "Sarador" and three fellows of Isildur's.[82] Scenes had been reconstructed - in part from the audition tapes - of Galadriel teaming-up with Middle-earth native "Aric" on a voyage to Numenore, stowing away on Elendil's ship to appear before Miriel.[83]

On September 4 of the same year, it was announced that English actor Will Poulter would portray a yet unspecified character,[84] though on December 12, it was reported that Poulter had left the series due to scheduling conflicts.[85] Poulter was reported to have been replaced by English actor Robert Aramayo on January 1, 2020.[86]

On January 14, 2020, Amazon revealed a cast of ten series regulars (arranged alphabetically by surname) via social media.[87] Amazon's co-head of television Vernon Sanders noted that there were still some key roles that had yet to be filled. One of these key roles was confirmed to go to Maxim Baldry in March when his deal for the series was completed, after he had been informally attached to the series in October 2019.

On December 3, 20 additional cast members were revealed.[72] At least a couple of the newly-announced members were informally attached to the series from the same time as the first ten regulars. Namely, Maxim Baldry; as well as Simon Merrels,[88] cast in the otherwise-unknown role of "Tervyn."[89] Lloyd Owen is reportedly attached to the role of "Loda" which was also being cast during the early casting sessions.[90] Of the new cast members, seven are New Zealanders, with the rest of the cast members coming from Australia, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

On March 14, 2021, actor Tom Budge announced his departure from the show, citing the showrunners wanting to change direction regarding his character.[91] Reportedly "a studio decision",[92] a recast quickly commissioned by Amazon.[93] Budge was cast as Celebrimbor, and replaced by Charles Edwards.[17]

Additionally, Lady Amelie Child-Villiers, a child actress noted for her similarity to Morfydd Clark, was said to have "filmed scenes for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series" before September 2020,[80] and was officially announced along with Charles Edwards (replacing Tom Budge), Will Fletcher and Beau Cassidy, "rounding out" the cast.[94]

Extras

Amazon had been casting extras of various ethnicities and body types. Some actors were cast under the guise of "warlords"[95] for unknown minor parts, as well as a "Mage Attendant."[96] Several casting calls required "short people", naturally for Dwarven roles, described as "background extra & featured extra work (with opportunities to upgrade to larger roles)."[97] An earlier casting call from October 2019 specified sizes of "4''6-4''1"[98] as well as "character faces" - a euphemism used in casting the movies for formidable-looking people - elaborated as "earthy, weathered, dark skin, missing teeth, wonderful noses etc." as well as "beautiful, fair, fine-boned faces".

Rating & content

A casting call referencing extras who "must be willing to wear sheer clothing,"[98] although it may be that this particular casting requirement was later written-out of the series. Another casting call for extras "comfortable with partial or full nudity",[97] that was thought to have been for The Lord of the Rings, was in reference to the concurrent Auckland Netflix production, Cowboy Bebop and appeared in the show's second episode. It is possible the show will feature nudity that is not sexualized.[17] At any rate, the show is currently listed in most territories under Amazon's viewership rating "16+" and the equivalent TVPGA rating of "PG-14", with individual episodes possibly getting rated lower (TV-PG/12+) or higher (TV-MA/18+). Similar to Wheel of Time's rating, it would allow the showrunners great latitude with battlefield violence but also with adult themes (e.g. Pharazon's incestuous marriage to Miriel) and other potential mature content. Nonetheless, Patrick McKay indicated the show will not display the degree of mature content featured in Game of Thrones, saying that it should be appropriate for children as young as 11.[7]

Crew

For personnel involved, see also the Cast & Crew category.

Amazon hired writers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay to develop the series in July.[54] Bryan Cogman joined the series as a consultant in May 2019 after signing an overall deal with Amazon. Cogman previously served as a writer on Game of Thrones, and was set to work alongside Payne and McKay in developing the new series.

In July, J.A. Bayona was hired to direct the first two episodes of the series and serve as executive producer alongside his producing partner Belén Atienza.[99] Bayona later said that he was attracted by the quality of the scripts and that there remains a "kinship to the films done by Peter Jackson."[100][101]

Later that month, Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss were in discussions with several outlets regarding signing an overall deal, including with Amazon who were interested in having the pair consult on The Lord of the Rings;[102] they ultimately signed a deal with Netflix instead.[103]

At the end of July, Amazon announced that Payne and McKay would serve as showrunners and executive producers for the series, and revealed the full creative team that was working on the project: executive producers Bayona, Atienza, Bruce Richmond, Gene Kelly, Lindsey Weber, and Sharon Tal Yguado; co-producer Ron Ames; costume designer Kate Hawley; production designer Rick Heinrichs; visual effects supervisor Jason Smith; illustrator/concept artist John Howe, who was one of the chief conceptual designers on the films, and Tolkien expert (and Oxford Emeritus) Thomas Shippey as consultant.[53][54]

By April 15, 2020, it was confirmed that Tom Shippey left the project. Its unclear whether he was only required in the development phase, of whether his lack of involvement had other causes.[104] On December 7 of the same year, it was confirmed Bryan Cogman had completed his obligation to the series after contributing to the first season's scripts.[105] Production designer Rick Heinrichs was replaced by Ramsey Avery.[106] Kelly also left the series, with Callum Greene joining as a new executive producer. Greene previously served as producer on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013).

Following Bayona's departure from New Zealand, Wayne Che Yip[107] began directing episodes 3 through to 6 of the season, as well as serving as executive producer.[108] On May 13, Charlotte Brändström was announced as the third and final director of the show's first season after widespread speculation that this was the case.[109][110]

Peter Jackson's involvement

At the time of the signing of the deal, Amazon had not contacted Peter Jackson or any of his collaborators,[111] but as early as March 2018 they and Jackson (who had previously spoke of having developed a sense of "mental ownership" over "the Middle-earth that's been put on the screen"[112]) had established contact via his attorney Peter Nelson, with a view for him to act in an advisory position during development and production, possibly as executive producer.[113] Although he initially said he was not involved, [114] Jackson was impressed with Amazon's "very good intentions"[115] and understood that Amazon will "try to have a series and a world where it sort of fits with the films; they want to keep the designs"[26] of his films. He wanted to get involved in the scripts,[116] and word among potential writers for the show was that he was about "to bring the whole project under his dominion."[20] However, he was too busy with Mortal Engines and They Shall Not Grow Old,[117] and hesitated to get involved in a long series, particularly where a third party like the Tolkien Estate had veto right.[27] Amazon and Jackson were still "in the middle of" discussions by mid-June, with Jackson ultimately opting to "help put the creative team together"[115] and possibly advise with regards to the designs and the finished scripts, having "not seen anything" at that point.[117][27][26][118]

Jackson and co-writer/co-producer Philippa Boyens had expressed excitement, agreeing that "fresh eyes on that story is such a good thing."[119] Indeed, Boyens having already said in 2014 that further stories in the franchise "will be for another generation of filmmakers", had said (along with Fran Walsh) that Amazon should "go with all our goodwill",[120] and eventually took a consultant position on New Line's concurrent The War of the Rohirrim, which Jackson and Walsh had also given their blessing to,[121] while they themselves work on the Ultra High-Definition Collector's Edition of their existing films in the franchise, which "completes" their direct involvement with the franchise.[122] Joining Walsh, Boyens and Jackson in wishing success for Amazon's project were cast-members Sir Ian McKellen,[123] Andy Serkis,[124] Viggo Mortensen,[125] Orlando Bloom,[30] Sean Astin,[126] Elijah Wood,[127] John Rhys-Davies[128] and executives Mark Ordesky[129] and Robert Shaye.[130] Actress Morfydd Clark said that affirmation was significant to the cast and crew,[33] and added that "[the challenge of taking part in an original film] is exactly the same [in] stepping into a world that’s already been created and already been masterfully done.”[131] In a Twitter event, Vanity Fair writers - having seen the first three episodes - said it "feels of-a-piece" with the films,[132] the showrunners being determined to make a show that won't "clash" with the films.[31]

Filming

Filming had begun by March 2020 and was expected to continue through May, with a four- or five-month production break then planned. During the break, the footage for the first two episodes would be reviewed and writing on the second season would begin. Production on the series was scheduled to resume in mid-October and continue until late June 2021. Amazon carried out shooting digitally with large-format Arri cameras,[133] predominantly Arri Alexa LF Mini, and finished in 4K and cropped to a cinematic aspect ratio of 2.40:1.

Production was halted prematurely due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, with filming resuming in late September.[134] While much of the opening two-episodes was reportedly already shot, reshoots were held under Bayona until December,[135] and resuming shortly thereafter for the rest of the first season. Location shooting took place around Auckland in February 2020, and resumed on October,[136] and in February 2021 in Manapouri. Contrary to reports that the show had halted filming due to new COVID cases in Auckland, it had in fact continued shooting outside the Auckland area.[137]

Shooting took place in Kumeu and Auckland film studios, including a snowy mountainside set believed to represent Helcaraxe[138], a forest-set city set standing for the southland city of Tirharad,[139] several wet-sets[140] and, reportedly, Khazad-dûm filling-up the biggest soundstage. Leaked set pictures had since revealed set construction taking place,[141] and several houses on a Númenórean one, including one set opposite the stairway of which a shot had leaked earlier,[142] as well as a piece of Dwarven armor and a mithril-ore decked chamber in Khazad-dûm.[143]

Walker said at the end of June that he was not sure how much longer the cast would be required to stay in New Zealand, saying the timeline for the production was "a bit nebulous" and Amazon would "let us go when they're done with us".[144] In early July, several stunt performers alleged that a senior stunt supervisor for the production had created an "uneasy environment" that contributed to an unsafe workplace, with at least three stunt performers being seriously injured on the set. This included stuntwoman Dayna Grant, who suffered a head injury on set in March and was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and upper spinal injury; fans crowdfunded NZ$100,000 to help Grant pay for surgery. The production's head of safety, Willy Heatley, said the injury rate was 0.065 percent across the 16,200 days of stunt work on the series since filming began, and this was mostly due to "common stunt-related sprains, bruises and muscle and soft tissue strains". Amazon Studios said safety was a top priority for the company and they were following all of WorkSafe's regulations.[145]

Amazon will premiere the series on September 2, 2022.[146][147][94] Filming on Season One had wrapped in 3 August, 2021, after earlier reports that it would wrap in late July, including pickups.[148][149] It is also said that Amazon is satisfied with the existing footage to the point of having greenlit Season 3, which will begin writing promptly,[150] with pre-production starting in "early 2022."[66]

By the estimated time in which pickups will wrap, the production will have had extended intermittently over 20 months (with some of the cast, like Morfydd Clark, staying in N.Z. throughout) and the shoot itself will have lasted 13 months.[149] Amazon is reportedly spending as high as $650 million NZD for season one alone,[151][152] although some of this sum will be used for "building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series"[153] and may have included some of the $250 million spent on the rights.[154] The first $100 million NZD spent on the production are not subsidized by New Zealand.[147]

Post-production

Amazon had contacted both WETA Digital (since rebranded WetaFX) and ILM for work on at least some of the VFX required for the show,[155] and at least some post-production work is to be done in NZ-based facilities,[34] which Amazon had proposed to establish themselves on New Zealand soil.[9] WetaFX employees on the show include Ken McGaugh as VFX supervisor, Paul Story as animation supervisor and Andy Taylor as VFX producer.[156][157] WETA Workshop is creating "Concept Design, Prosthetic Make-up Effects and Weapons"[158] and several of its employees are also credited as working on the show,[156] and the company is said to be "expected to cash in on the production."[65]

Film composer Howard Shore had expressed interest in working on the show.[159][160] While he was not contacted during production,[161] he was later said to be involved,[162][163][164] as has composer Bear McCreary. Vanity Fair commented on Howard Shore's score but withdrew:[165] whether this is due to Amazon wanted to keep it for a later reveal or because the score in question was a temporary track, is unclear. It is said Amazon uphold no restrictions on episode length,[166] which are believed to be around 50 minutes long each.[167]

Amazon is said to be shooting behind-the-scenes material, to be released as featurettes appended to the individual episodes and/or the season finale. During post-production, Amazon will submit six 60-90 second videos about shooting in New Zealand for the country's authorities to use for promoting tourism. Amazon will also credit New Zealand as the shooting location in the opening credits.[147]

Marketing

Title reveal

Amazon had released a teaser announcing the title of the show in January 19, 2022. The teaser was shot in six days[168] in late 2021, after filming had concluded, by using macro-photography (achieved with the advise of Douglas Trumbull) of metallurgy to show the title being forged, while also possibly alluding to the Downfall of Númenor via the rushing water. The lettering is silver, perhaps alluding to the creation of the Doors of Durin, and the music hints at Howard Shore's Ring theme.[169]

Shortly prior to this, Amazon put the show up on their Prime Video service. A press release appended to the teaser revealed the show will cover all the main events of the Second Age, necessitating a title that will befit all those events.

First-look posters

On February 3, 2022, a total of 23 posters were released via official social media accounts, corresponding with the "22 stars" of the show, reported by Vanity Fair. In order "To fuel fan speculation and discussion", said Amazon, "faces are not shown, and neither character names nor corresponding actors will be revealed,"[170] although they had revealed that the hands belong to "cast members Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Maxim Baldry, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Lloyd Owen, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker, Daniel Weyman, and Sara Zwangobani."[171] Many of these had sine been identified by fans (see "Gallery") based on Amazon's descriptive text,[172] identifying features on hands, and visual motifs on the costumes and props. [173][160]

Teaser

Amazon had released a one-minute teaser (see Gallery) during Superbowl, which showcased the port of Romenna, a clearing in Lindon where Elves in armour are sent on a mission by Gil-galad, and footage of Galadriel on her quest to the Forodwaith (where a snow-Troll is encountered by Kip Chapman's character) and on her sea voyage with Halbrand. Also featured were Daniel Weyman as "The Stranger", being rescued by Markella Kavenagh's Elanor Brandyfoot from the site of a Meteor crash.

Gallery

Videos

Character posters

Cast & rumors

In order of announcement

  • Markella Kavenagh, as Elanor "Nori" Brandyfoot, a Harfoot hobbit.[174] Kavenagh was the first actress cast with a description indicating "a wide-eyed 15-17 year old with a strength and maturity beyond her years." Her role is further described as "a leading [one] with dramatic and comedic elements."[74] Alongside Megan Richards' "May", they will "encounter a mysterious lost man whose origin promises to be one of the show’s most enticing enigmas."[7]
  • Maxim Baldry, as Isildur.[7] Isildur's is said to be a "significant" role[175] under the codename of "Cole", who is described as "a young athletic male in his very early 20's, to play around 18. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders, so must feel an old soul. Troubled, but mercurial and charismatic."[74]
  • Joseph Mawle, rumored as "Adar", codenamed "Oren", the main antagonist[176]; believed to be a corrupted Elf (even a fallen brother of Galadriel's[177]) under Sauron's sway, or an alias for Sauron himself.[178] Said to be "A villain who can also evoke a deep sense of pathos and wounded / fallen nobility. Must possess a certain degree of physicality. Should seem middle-aged, though must also project a sense of timelessness."[74]
  • Ema Horvath[179], rumored as Carine, an original character and daughter of Elendil.[178] Codenamed "Shay", she is described as "pragmatic, clever young woman. She is studious and ambitious. She can be serious but has a quick wit" but also "deeply politically minded, which presents a particular challenge when the political leanings within her own family become increasingly divided…"[74] This political divide had since been clarified as a romantic attachment to Kemen, Pharazon's son.[180][180]
  • Morfydd Clark, as young Galadriel.[181] Clark was cast in December, reportedly in the Galadriel role, shortly after negotiations for the role of "Eldien" (the projected series lead) were said to have been held.[77] This, and the resemblance that other candidates for the role shared with Clark, led to speculation that Galadriel is Eldien[15], described as "a complex, unique and formidable young woman in her mid-20s who possesses an eternal quality and a strong physical component."[77] By October 2020, Clark intimated that she remained in New Zealand throughout the shooting and hiatus undergoing substantial exercise (including horse-riding, sword-fighting and arrow-firing) and confirmed the role of a "more rebellious"[182] Galadriel.[183][184] Galadriel had since been described as "commander of the Northern Armies" of, presumably, Lindon; and as "younger, as angry and brash as she is clever, and certain that evil is looming closer than anyone realizes." In the pilot episode, while "hunting down the last remnants"- possibly in the southern village of Tirharad - of Sauron's "collaborators, who claimed the life of her brother."[7]
  • Robert Aramayo, as Elrond. The role was codenamed as "Beldor"[86]; said to be "an optimistic, intelligent, and political savvy protagonist who is nonetheless more reserved than his on-screen counterparts."[77] Also required to be "the straight-man in pairings with more out-sized personalities", "action-oriented at times" and "early 20s, though should also possess a gravitas that belies a character who could be far older",[74] Beldor was believed to be Elrond for some time based on Aramayo's resemblance to Hugo Weaving.[92][185] He is described as a "canny young elven architect and politician." He goes to mend "the relationship between his people and the dwarves of Khazad-dûm."[186] Said to be "just beginning to build his reputation", Elrond "will rise to prominence in the mystical capital of Lindon” and is seen reunited there with Galadriel.[7]
  • Owain Arthur, as prince Durin IV. A character description indicates he "will range in dramatic pairings as a best friend, a son, a husband and a father."
  • Nazanin Boniadi, as Bronwyn,[7] a village healer from the "southlands of Middle-earth" and mother of Theo, and is said to be "torn between her son and her own people", which the audition tape suggest are Middle-earth natives, "and the man with whom she is secretly in love an outsider to the village"[74], which is confirmed to be the character Arondir.
  • Ismael Cruz Córdova, as Arondir, a Silvan Elf.[7] The role was described as "equal parts soldier and lover; a ruggedly-handsome, brooding, Byronic hero."[74] In an interview, Cordova compared the significance of his role in the show to that of a major role like John Boyega's in the recent Star Wars films.[187] Arondir was previously codenamed "Calenon" and "Everard."
  • Tyroe Muhafidin as Theo, the young son of Bronwyn. An apparent character description indicates him to be "a sweet, honorable kid who feels responsible for his mother. Curious about the world and frustrated by his small-town life." The description goes on to say he can be suspicious of other peoples' intentions with his mother.[74]
  • Sophia Nomvete, as princess Disa, a Dwarf and mate of Durin IV. The role is said to be a "warm and maternal female actor" aged "35-45" for a "comedic/dramatic role" with "singing ability". [74]
  • Megan Richards,[87] as "May", a Harfoot.[7]
  • Dylan Smith, [87] often believed to be playing a Dwarf based a picture he shared in prosthetics, Dylan had in fact appeared in said prosthetics as a Neanderthal for the Hulu movie Dawn.[188]
  • Charlie Vickers,[87] as Halbrand,[7] a "dramatic leading role with comedic elements." A fugitive, Halbrand goes with Galadriel to Numenore, becoming shipwrecked en route. He had since been confirmed as the character appearing in scale-armour and holding a sword with horse-head hilt, which could suggest he would become an ancestor of the Rohirrim.[172]
  • Daniel Weyman,[87] as "The Stranger."[178] Previously known under the codename "Daric", who "vacillates between stubborn gravitas and a sense of sweetness and innocence."[74] "The Stranger" crashes from the sky in a Meteor crash[173] and discovered by Nori and "May" and is said to a "being" of "the same class" as the wizards Gandalf and Saruman.
  • Simon Merrells,[189] as "Trevyn."[89]
  • Cynthia Addai-Robinson,[189] rumored as Tar Miriel.[178] Coded as "Asta", it is a role for a "diverse woman" playing a "high-ranking lady" who is "mighty but reserved, also shows grace & humor."[74]
  • Ian Blackburn (role unknown)[189]
  • Kip Chapman[189]: though his role is unknown, he can be seen in the teaser as an Elf that takes part in Galadriel's expedition to the Forodwaith.
  • Anthony Crum (role unknown)[189]
  • Maxine Cunliffe (role unknown)[189]
  • Trystan Gravelle[189] rumored as Pharazon or "Weylin".[178]
  • Sir Lenworth "Lenny" Henry as an elder of the Harfoots;[7] he shares a resemblance (and is of a similar age to) Brian A. Wilson, who auditioned for Hamsom, said to be a "warm, charming, weathered" and "kind" with "sad eyes. He’s quietly suffering from an ailment he has to hide from his physically demanding traveling community. He puts on a brave face in public and keeps his physical suffering to himself. He does this with charm and a twinkle, concealing his sadness that his family has to cover for him. He loves his family and his strong, practical wife."[74] The wife in question is evidentially the role of "Cora."
  • Thusitha Jayasundera (role unknown)[189]
  • Fabian McCallum (role unknown)[189]
  • Geoff Morrell[189] (role unknown). The eldest of the cast, some have speculated Morrell could be playing the aging Tar Palantir, codenamed Sarador. [82]
  • Peter Mullan[189], previously considered for the role of Balin in The Hobbit,[190][191] Mullan is believed to be playing a Dwarf, possibly King Durin III, father of Durin IV, codenamed "Khain."[178]
  • Lloyd Owen[189], rumored as Elendil.[178] Going under the codename of "Loda"[90], he is said to be "earthy, deep, solid. Doesn't give his feelings away easily. Physically strong & fit" and "in his late 40s/50s."[74]
  • Augustus Prew[189], although his role is unknown, he could be the part of "Neldor", described as "a similar archetype to Beldor"[77] but a bit older.[74]
  • Peter Tait (role unknown)[189]
  • Alex Tarrant (role unknown)[189]
  • Leon Wadham (role unknown)[189]
  • Benjamin Walker as Gil-galad,[192] perhaps the character codenamed "Galanion", a "character portrayed is in their late 40s early 50s. A man of elegance and great gravitas. A leader of his people, wise and pragmatic to a fault. He isn't afraid to manipulate for the greater good." Prior to the announcement of Walker's involvement, it was speculated Kaya Scodelario, Walker's spouse, was involved in the show due her flight schedule and social network activity.[193] This was debunked and explained away through Walker's involvement.
  • Sara Zwangobani[189] suspected to be playing "Cora" opposite Sir Lenny Henry's potential "Hamsom", based on her age and heritage. Described as "Practical, solid, earthy. A matriarch under too much pressure she sweeps any problems under the rug." It is said the pressure of Hamsom's failing health "and their large family can make her seem dismissive and detached. In reality shes deeply loving. She leans too much on her oldest daughter and worries that shes dangerously curious about the world. She desperately wants a quiet life."[74]
  • Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor.[7]
  • Will Fletcher, suspected to be Finrod.[194][94]
  • Lady Amelie Child-Villiers,[94] rumored as a young Galadriel.[178]
  • Beau Cassidy (role unknown)[94]

External links

References

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