Amazon's forthcoming The Lord of the Rings television series will feature characters fans already love, the studio's chief has confirmed. J. R. R. Tolkien's epic literary series was given the big budget live-action treatment at the hands of Peter Jackson in the 2000s and Middle-earth was taken into the mainstream, with the likes of Frodo, Gandalf and Legolas becoming household names. After turning three books into three movies, Jackson squeezed another trilogy out of The Hobbit to a markedly less enthusiastic response. It seemed as if the world of live-action was done with Tolkien, but Amazon had other ideas.
In November 2017, it was confirmed that Amazon Studios had spent a not inconsiderable sum to obtain the rights to produce a The Lord of the Rings television series. While there are precious few details regarding the show at this early stage, there is a multi-season deal - reportedly for five seasons - in place and the budget for the show is rumored to be the highest in TV history. Several actors from the movie series have either declared their interest (Ian McKellen) or ruled themselves out (Andy Serkis) and Jackson has distanced himself from any involvement in the series.
Head of Amazon Studios, Jennifer Salke, has now finally revealed some solid, if scant, details about the direction of the Lord of the Rings TV series. In an interview with Deadline, Salke was asked whether the series will follow the same characters as the movies, to which 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."
Regarding Jackson's involvement, Salke stated:
"The Peter Jackson conversations, right now we’re right in the middle of them. It’s like, how much do you want to be involved, how little? I know there’s been some discussion, and he’s even said some things, but as far as I’m aware, the latest is that we’re just in a conversation with him about how much or how little he would be involved."
Movie-only fans of The Lord of the Rings may well be relieved to hear that at least some of their favorite characters are going to be returning in the TV series. Tolkien's works are so deep and rich in detail that Amazon could've easily plucked some less familiar characters from the canon to focus on, so as to ensure a completely different experience compared to the movies. Instead, they're aiming to attract as broad an appeal as possible by sticking with the characters that the movies made so famous. In the interview, Selke also suggests that filming could once again take place in New Zealand - another indication that Amazon is looking to build upon, rather than replace the work done by Jackson.
It's also interesting that Selke doesn't seem to rule out some kind of involvement from Jackson, suggesting that talks are still ongoing on that front. This seems somewhat at odds with comments from the director himself who has been keen to remain separate from the project. Whether Jackson is involved in production or not, it certainly seems as if the new Lord of the Rings TV series won't stray far from his tone and visual style.
The Lord of the Rings is currently without a release date. More news as it arrives.