What we know about Amazon’s ‘$1 Billion’ Lord of the Rings TV series – Budget, crew, cast, plot and theories on what may be adapted from the books

J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings is probably the biggest and most influential fantasy series in history, having influenced the Harry Potter series, His Dark Materials , and A Song of Ice and Fire , which Game of Thrones is based on.

Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films are also arguably the most acclaimed fantasy films of all time, and won huge acclaim, box office and awards focusing on the journey of Frodo Baggins to destroy the diabolical ‘One Ring’.

When Amazon Studios announced that they would be adapting Tolkien’s magnum opus series into a television show, many responded with skepticism, but just as many with excitement.

With the recent news that Amazon intends to spend a billion dollars on the series , fans of the series are now eagerly anticipating more of the fantasy legend’s work ending up on screen.

What else do we know about the series so far? The Mirror gathers the information on the latest news and where the show could take Middle-Earth in future…

When is the release date of the series?

At present, there is currently no release date for the show, which is not even in production. We predict a premiere in 2020 unless Amazon is looking to fast-track the process.

Who are the creative powers behind it?

No individuals are confirmed at present, but Amazon Studios will be working alongside the Tolkien Estate and New Line Cinema, the division of Warner Bros. Studios who created the Jackson trilogy of films. The Tolkien Trust and publishers HarperCollins will also be involved in proceedings.

How much did Amazon pay for the rights?

Amazon has gone above and beyond for Lord of the Rings.

Amazon reportedly paid through the nose for the rights to adapt the series, with apparently $200-250 million being the price to pay for the show. Amazon competed with other television giants such as Netflix and HBO.

How long is it expected to run?

The series is currently expected to run for five seasons in total.

How much will the series cost as a whole?

Across the entirety of the five seasons, Amazon is expecting to pay up to a billion dollars for the series! This will overtake Netflix’s The Crown as the most expensive series ever produced.

Amazon’s epic Lord of the Rings TV series will be ‘most expensive ever’ with an eye-watering $1billion budget

What will the plot be?

Mount Doom in Mordor in Lord of the Rings
Mount Doom in Mordor in Lord of the Rings

At this point, we know very little about the plot. What we do know is, however, that the series will not be an adaptation of Tolkien’s trilogy centred on Frodo Baggins, and instead be adapting stories before and around that journey. It sounds reductive in this case to dub the show a prequel, as it may, in fact, be a more world-building exercise. The stories set before The Fellowship of the Ring seem to be more of the focus though, but we expect The Hobbit to be left well alone.

Who will be in the cast?

Again, as this is early days, no actors have been confirmed in the cast of films.

Additionally, as we are not sure what stories will make up the plot of the series, it is even hard to predict what characters will make an appearance, and additionally, if any actors from the Lord of the Rings films will return to play their roles.

Ian McKellen has expressed a keen interest to return to his iconic role of Gandalf, telling Graham Norton in a radio interview that “Gandalf is over 7000 years old, so I’m not too old.”

John Rhys Davies who portrayed Gimli in the films is less keen on the television series’ existence, while Sean Astin (who played Samwise Gamgee) is much more optimistic and intrigued to see how the show will play out – even if he isn’t involved.

Gollum actor Andy Serkis expressed doubts he will be involved in the series at all and has previously stated he said goodbye to the part when he reprised the role for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey .

We would be surprised if anyone would return to their previous role, and if much of the action is set before the trilogy, then we expect younger actors to portray some of the more iconic characters. This does still leave room for McKellen to play Gandalf, and for the actors who played the immortal Elves to return too, though.

John Rhys Davies, Orlando Bloom, and Sean Bean starred as Gimli, Legolas, and Borimir, respectively, in The Lord of the Rings films.

Most important of all though is whether they are set in the same universe as Peter Jackson’s films, or if they will exist completely independent of the blockbuster films, which will impact on actors returning at all.

What could the series adapt outside of The Lord of the Rings ?

There are a whole host of stories written by Tolkein set within the world of Middle-Earth, and also an army of intriguing characters to explore and mine the backstory of. Here are some of our top picks to be tackled in the new show…

  • Aragorn’s past and adventures as Strider. Aragorn, the rugged ranger who aided Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom turned out to be the heir to the throne of Gondor, but he’d lived an exciting life before The Fellowship of the Ring , with his exploits as the mysterious Strider and how he became separated from his bloodline available to tackle. The series could also explore his love story with Arwen (played by Liv Tyler in the films) once again.

The Lord of the Rings

  • The times of Elves and Men – including Sauron’s origins. There is a behemoth of history regarding the race of Elves and their tumultuous relationship with the race of Men. There is certainly too much to even mention regarding the number of figures to examine here, but we reckon a backstory to the dark lord Sauron himself, once named Annatar and appearing much prettier, and his tense relationship with the Elves regarding the act of ring-making would be prime material to tackle. The prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring is a standout sequence of the original trilogy so to go there in more detail is an exciting prospect and can provide appearances for well-known characters such as Elrond and Galadriel.

  • The tragedy of Isildur. Aragorn’s ancestor who killed Sauron in his physical form but gave in to greed and kept the one ring for himself, causing a rift with his partner in fighting, Elrond. Isildur’s rule descended into further greed and war, ending in an ambush by Orcs that resulted in his death. The ring slipped from his finger (of its own volition) to be found by Smeagol aka Gollum years later. The rule of Isildur is bloody and dramatic and would make gripping viewing, with a direct connection to the main trilogy.

Hugo Weaving as Lord Elrond in Peter Jackson's new movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Hugo Weaving as Lord Elrond in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

  • The Children of Húrin. The epic tale of a hero named Húrin and his son Túrin, whose adventures see them face-off with the original dark lord, Morgoth, and deal with family drama, fighting dragons, incest, and suicidal lovers. That should whet the appetite of Game of Thrones fans when that web of lies an deceit comes to an end.

  • Beren and Luthien . A tale of star-crossed lovers having to battle against weird and wonderful creatures, their families who don’t approve of human-elf love, and also the evil Morgoth. Their love story is rendered so beautifully that the grave of Tolkien and his late wife Edith are engraved with the lovers’ names.

  • Tales amongst the Riders of Rohan. The Riders, also known as the Rohirrim, the herdsmen and farmers who take to their horses with shields and protect the land of Rohan from all threats are a noble but gritty sort to tackle. The palace of Edoras in Rohan and the machinations of those inside – including the sniveling Grima Wormtongue – were such an interesting aspect of The Two Towers that we wish more time had been spent there. Even if characters like King Theoden, Eomer and Eowyn are absent, we would love to ride with Rohan again in the TV series.

Karl Urban as Éomer in Lord of the Rings
Karl Urban as Éomer of Rohan in Lord of the Rings

  • Concerning Hobbits. The signature race of Tolkein’s back-catalog, the stories of the small people with hairy feet and a love of drinking and pipe-weed are also charming to audiences. We do worry they will lack dramatic heft, considering Bilbo and Frodo had to leave the Shire for some action to happen! However, we can’t imagine a show set in Middle-Earth without them.

Bilbo had to leave the Shire for some adventure in The Hobbit.

Where would you like Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series to take you? Let us know in the comments below.

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