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J.A. Bayona to direct Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series

Staff Reporter

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Juan Antonio Bayona will direct the first two episodes of Amazon Studios’ upcoming series based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s iconic fantasy novels The Lord of the Rings.

The director, who has repeatedly impressed with films such as The Orphanage and The Impossible, has signed up to helm the opening two episodes of Amazon’s epic series. He will also serve as an executive producer, alongside his partner Belén Atienza. “J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team,” says Bayona. “I can’t wait to take audiences around the world back to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story.” “The scope and breadth of J.A.’s world-building is exactly the right fit for our ambitions for The Lord of the Rings. He’s a passionate and collaborative director who has brought new stories to life with his multitalented producing partner, Belén,” comments Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios. “We are all excited for them to join our writers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and we can’t think of a better way to begin this journey to Middle-earth.” “We are thrilled to have J.A. and Belen joining the fellowship as we continue to develop this epic series,” add writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay. “We have been great admirers of J.A.’s work for years, and know that his epic, cinematic, and deeply heartfelt aesthetic is the perfect sensibility to bring Middle-earth to life anew.” Bayona’s first feature film, the critically acclaimed thriller The Orphanage, executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, premiered to a ten-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and later won seven Goya Awards in Spain, including best new director. Bayona most recently directed the blockbuster feature Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but is no stranger to genre TV: he helmed multiple episodes of Showtime’s hit fantasy horror Penny Dreadful.

Game of Thrones’ Bryan Cogman joins Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series

23rd May 2019

How to follow the biggest fantasy TV series of all time? Hire one of the creators of the biggest fantasy TV series of all time. That’s the tactic being employed by Amazon Studios, which has recruited Game of Thrones producer Bryan Cogman for its new Lord of the Rings series.

Announced in 2017, the project is a hugely ambitious one for Amazon, and not just because it costs a lot of money, although it does that too; the rights for J.R.R. Tolkein’s novels cost a reported $250 million, before production costs even began to mount up, with a commitment from Amazon to making multiple seasons.

Since then, Amazon has confirmed that the series will take place in the Second Age of Tolkein’s Middle-earth, a generation before the events of The Lord of the Rings. Amazon has also cemented its geek credentials by hiring Star Trek 4 writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay to pen the project.

Now, it’s doubling down on talent with the addition of Cogman to the mix, reports Deadline. The co-executive producer of HBO’s epic wrote many of the key episodes – including A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms in Season 8 – and was the third brain behind the show, tasked with keeping things faithful to the book.

Cogman is no stranger to Amazon, having last year inked a multi-year overall deal that sees him working exclusively with the online giant’s studio to create original series.

Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series will be set in the Second Age

8th March 2019

Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series will officially be set in the Second Age, the online giant has announced.

Announced in 2017, the project is a hugely ambitious one for Amazon Prime Video, and not just because it costs a lot of money, although it does that too; the rights for J.R.R. Tolkein’s novels cost a reported $250 million, before production costs even began to mount up, with a commitment from Amazon to making multiple seasons.

Since then, speculation has run rampant about what the series might cover, speculation that has increased following the hiring of Star Trek 4 writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay to pen the show. Last month, Amazon teased the programme with the release of a map of Tolkein’s Middle-earth, which fans noted included Calenardhon, the name of Rohan’s lands when it was ruled by Gondor, which places the show as taking place in the Second Age (the Third Age is when The Lord of the Rings took place).

Now, Amazon has confirmed that the series is going to be set generations before Aragorn and other known characters showed up. “Welcome to the Second Age,” tweeted Amazon cryptically, before going on to quote a passage from Tolkein’s novels: “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them, In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”

The words were accompanied by a newly expanded and detailed map, including Numenor, the land from which Aragon’s ancestors hail, which suggests that we’ll be looking at the bloodline leading to the eventual King of Gondor. The rhyme, meanwhile, suggests that we may be following, in particular, the years leading up to the Last Alliance of Elves and Men (Gil-galad and Elendil, father of Isildur) and, eventually, the first downfall of Sauron.

Amazon teases map for Lord of the Rings series

20th February 2019

Amazon has been teasing some initial details of its new Lord of the Rings series – or, more accurately, teasing fans about how secretive it’s going to be about said details.

Announced in 2017, the project is a hugely ambitious one for Amazon Prime Video, and not just because it costs a lot of money, although it does that too; the rights for J.R.R. Tolkein’s novels cost a reported $250 million, before production costs even began to mount up, with a commitment from Amazon to making multiple seasons.

Star Trek 4 writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay were eventually tapped to write the series, although Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke has revealed, alongside a few other bits that there is “no timetable” for the show’s release. That suggests that there is still some scope for developing and planning a story and director for the series to take, and it’s perhaps in that spirit that Amazon this week revealed a map of Middle-earth.

That map doesn’t give us much to go on, but eagle-eyed fans have spotted that it includes Calenardhon, the name of Rohan’s lands when it was ruled by Gondor. That places the series in the Second Age of Middle-earth, i.e. the one before the Third Age, which is when Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy (and Tolkein’s novels) take place. That suggests that plans have moved on from 2018, when it was rumoured by The One Ring that the series would follow a young Aragorn, with the prequel instead going even further back into Tolkein’s lore for storylines.

Salke told the media at the TCA press tour that the team is “making great progress”, but has since spoken a bit more about the project – or, specifically, the secrecy surrounding it.

In an interview with THR, Salke noted that she, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Senior Vice President of Business Development Jeff Blackburn had a meeting with Tolkien’s estate in New York to “see some art, some creative work that they haven’t shown the world yet”. She also noted that the writers room is being very carefully contained.

“There’s a fantastic writers room working under lock and key. They’re already generating really exciting material. They’re down in Santa Monica,” she elaborated. “You have to go through such clearance, and they have all their windows taped closed. And there’s a security guard that sits outside, and you have to have a fingerprint to get in there, because their whole board is up on a thing of the whole season.”

Amazon hires Star Trek 4 writers to pen Lord of the Rings series

29th June 2018

Amazon has found its showrunners for its new Lord of the Rings TV show.

The ambitious project was first announced last year, after Amazon outbid rivals to nab the rights to JRR Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy. In a deal that was thought to be in the region of $250 million, Amazon Studios secured the chance to adapt the property into a TV series, but that sum didn’t include any of the production costs, and also came with a two-year time limit in which to behin production.

While industry pundits have already forecast that the programme will be the most expensive TV series in history, Amazon hasn’t stopped to consider the cost and is instead getting closer to putting the project together. The first major step since last year has now been taken, with JD Payne and Patrick McKay hired to write the series.

The duo are rising writers in Hollywood, having just worked on Star Trek 4 for JJ Abrams. Deadline reports that Abrams was one of several producers who recommended the pair for the gig. Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke announced the hiring at its TCA press tour panel this weekend, revealing that the epic fantasy drama will have a writers room behind it. Payne and McKay will head up that room, after being picked from a shortlist of possible scribes, mostly with a feature film background.

“The rich world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is filled with majesty and heart, wisdom and complexity,” Payne and McKay said. “We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Amazon to bring it to life anew. We feel like Frodo, setting out from the Shire, with a great responsibility in our care — it is the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.”

The series will explore new storylines set before The Fellowship of the Rings, with Salke previously hinting that familiar characters will make appearances, even though it will not be a remake of the material already covered in the movies. The writers room will now be assembled to develop the show’s story further.

“We are really excited to move right into the next phase of the development process, which is building the world,” Salke commented.

Deadline also reports that conversations continue with Peter Jackson, director of The Lords of the Rings movie trilogy, about either potential involvement or using his sets in New Zealand for filming the series.

Amazon’s Lord of the Rings set to be most expensive TV series in history

6th April 2018

Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series is expected to be the most expensive TV show ever made, with five seasons reportedly ordered.

In November 2017, Amazon Studios announced that it had acquired the rights to JRR Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy. The deal, which saw Amazon outbid Netflix to sign on the dotted line, cost a whopping $250 million. That, however, was only for the rights to the property, with talent, production and some undoubtedly hefty post-production all still to be paid for. Such costs will not remain theoretical for long: the clock is already ticking on the deal, which requires Amazon to begin production within two years, and current estimates place the likely price of the whole series far north of $1 billion.

That figure would make small screen history, outstripping even the generous $100 million budget of Netflix’s The Crown, one of the most expensive TV shows to date.

What Amazon will get for its money is starting to become clearer, thanks to The Hollywood Reporter, who this week spoke to Greenberg Glusker attorney Matt Galsor, who was the architect behind the deal.

“This is the most complicated deal I’ve ever seen,” Galsor explains, “but it was handled relatively quickly, in a way that brought the parties together in a close relationship. It was tough, but everybody liked each other and felt like a team more as the deal closed.”

The deal with not only the Tolkien estate, but also publisher HarperCollins and New Line Cinema, reportedly covers a five-season commitment for the project. It includes the rights to the books, but also the Peter Jackson movies, with THR reporting that Amazon “may use material from the films” as the basis of whatever it ultimately chooses to create.

Amazon previously confirmed that the TV show will be a prequel, exploring new storylines preceding The Fellowship of the Ring, with the deal also allowing for a potential additional spin-off series.

The films, of course, were a New Line production, and had their own fair share of legal tussles. Tolkien originally sold his rights to United Artists, before they went to MGM and Miramax, then New Line. With the trilogy taking in $5.85 billion worldwide in cinemas, Amazon was clearly prepared for any negotiations in order to secure a franchise that is deemed highly bankable and able to bring in new viewers.

“It’s very much a creature of the times,” comments Peter Jackson’s attorney, Peter Nelson. “We are in an era where streamers are bidding up the price of programming. I think Amazon is taking a page out of the studios’ emphasis on franchises. They also are realizing that with the overproduction of television, you need to get the eyeballs to the screen, and you can do that with franchise titles.”

And what of Jackson? Nelson was not involved in last year’s talks, but has reportedly helped to start a dialogue with Amazon, with the decision up to the filmmaker whether he will be involved as an executive producer or in another capacity.

Amazon officially announces Lord of the Rings prequel series

13th November 2017

Amazon is officially making a new Lord of the Rings prequel series.

The show, which was rumoured to be in negotiations at Amazon earlier this month, will be set in Middle Earth, the home of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic, which has grown over the years from a world-renowned literary work to a blockbuster movie franchise. Its theatrical adaptations, from New Line Cinema and Director Peter Jackson, earned a combined gross of nearly $6 billion worldwide. With an all-star cast that included Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin and Orlando Bloom, The Lord of the Rings trilogy garnered a combined 17 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Amazon’s new TV adaptation will explore new storylines preceding The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in the trilogy. The deal includes a production commitment to multiple seasons, plus a potential additional spin-off series.

The series will be produced by Amazon Studios in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment. It shows that Amazon’s serious about its shift in focus away from smaller projects to bigger, mainstream productions that will generate as much watercooler buzz as possible. While some may debate the originality of choosing a fantasy franchise that has already been adapted for the screen, Amazon is putting its money where its confidence is: Deadline reports that the Tolkein estate (which approached Netflix and HBO) have asked for around $250 million for the deal. That does not include any development or production, but solely the rights to mount a Lord of the Rings TV show in the first place. With costs for an epic series likely to stretch to around $100 million a season, including talents and production itself, this is a gargantuan gamble for Amazon Studios.

“‪The Lord of the Rings‬ is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” says Sharon Tal Yguado, Head of Scripted Series, Amazon Studios. “We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.” “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,” adds Matt Galsor, a representative for the Tolkien Estate and Trust and HarperCollins. “Sharon 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.”

The show is expected to premiere in 2020.

Amazon in talks for Lord of the Rings TV series

4th November 2017

Amazon is in talks to develop a TV series based on The Lord of the Rings.

Amazon Studios has been undergoing a tumultuous time in recent months, as the online giant’s TV and film arm has parted ways with a wave of executives. That was kick-started by Roy Price, who was initially suspended after an allegation of sexual harassment from a producer on The Man in the High Castle. Shortly after, Amazon’s head of scripted, Joe Lewis, and head of unscripted, Conrad Riggs, also departed.

Heather Schuster is now Amazon’s head of unscripted, with Tracey Lentz appointed head of creative unscripted and Sharon Tal Yguado in charge of all scripted series. They are working alongside Albert Cheng, who was appointed as Price’s interim replacement.

The major reshuffle also comes at a time when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has been pushing for a change in focus at Amazon Studios, with Bezos wanting to move away from niche projects, such as award winners Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, and develop programming with a wider international appeal. That shift has seen both The Last Tycoon and Z: The Beginning of Everything cancelled, while deals have been made with genre stalwarts such as The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman.

A project involving The Lord of the Rings would fit right in with Amazon’s aim to reach a more mainstream audience. With Warner Bros. reportedly shopping around a series based on the novels, it is no surprise that Amazon has emerged as the frontrunner in a competitive bidding situation.

The negotiations mark a significant improvement in the relationship between Warner Bros., which produced Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films (pictured above), and the Tolkein estate, after they settled a long-running lawsuit in July, which revolved around the use of characters from the films in various games. Variety reports that Bezos himself is involved in the negotiations with Warner Bros., although talks are still in the early stages.

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