We start by hearing what Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke has to say, then we share a story from Engadget that provides more background about how this idea came to fruition.
The following interview with Jennifer Salke is part of a wider ranging interview with Nellie Andreever from 'Deadline Hollywood' -
DEADLINE: The scripted narrative about Amazon has been that Jeff Bezos wanted his version of Game of Thrones. Have you spoken with him about that and how you can deliver on that goal?
"SALKE: Despite all the noise around Lord of the Rings, the deal only closed like a month ago. But in the meantime, I’ve sat with Simon Tolkien for a couple of hours, and Amazon TV executive Sharon has spent tons of time with them.
She had spent the last couple of months meeting anyone who had said, I’m really passionate about it and I want to get in and talk about the show and what’s possible. I think you’ll see us honing in on a strategy in the next month, which might involve a group of writers. Clearly, there’ll be someone in charge, but it involves the estate and Peter Jackson, and there’s a lot of conversations.
DEADLINE: Is Peter Jackson involved in the series?
SALKE: 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.
DEADLINE: Are you working on one Lord of the Rings series or multiple ones?
SALKE: One. At the moment, one big series.
DEADLINE: With the same characters as the movies?
SALKE: 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.
DEADLINE: For example?
SALKE: I can’t give that out, I don’t have anything for it.
DEADLINE: Where will you shoot the series? Peter Jackson has got his whole Middle Earth built in New Zealand.
SALKE: I think we might be in New Zealand. I don’t know, but we’re going to have to go somewhere interesting that could provide those locations in a really authentic way, because we want it to look incredible. There’s no shortage of ambition for the project. We’ll go where we need to go to make it happen."
One of the New Zealand Vacations crew also found the following article about the challenges that Amazon will face in producing a Lord of The Rings TV series. It was originally published in the technology news and review publication Engaget.
"When rumors broke that Amazon was hoping to turn J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings into a TV series, many felt that CEO Jeff Bezos had found his own Game of Thrones. We're still many years out from seeing a final product, but the first steps were taken today: Amazon just announced that it is producing a multi-season series based in Tolkien's Middle-earth. But if Bezos really wants to emulate HBO's wildly popular adaptation of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Amazon's series will likely end up feeling rather foreign to Tolkien devotees.
We're many years out from the project actually hitting our screens, but Amazon offered a few clues as to what we might see in its press release: "Set in Middle-earth, the television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring." So, Amazon isn't just remaking the story that hit the big screen in the early 2000s. But what isn't clear is whether Amazon will be adapting other Middle-earth storylines from Tolkien's many other writings -- or if Middle-earth will just be a blank canvas for Amazon to write entirely new stories on.
For now, both scenarios appear to be in play. "Sharon [Tal Yguado, Head of Scripted Series at Amazon] 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," said Matt Galsor in Amazon's press release. He's listed as a representative for the HarperCollins (the publisher of Tolkien's written works) and Tolkien Estate and Trust.
It's interesting that the Tolkien estate is involved, because it indicates that Amazon may have access to more of the author's works than Peter Jackson did when he made The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies. Because of the way the movie rights were sold, Jackson could only pull from the three Lord of the Rings novels (including the hundred-ish pages of appendices) and The Hobbit itself. Everything else Tolkien wrote was off-limits.
Some optimistic Tolkien fans may hope to see their favorite stories from The Silmarillion, the vast, almost Biblical book that recounts Middle-earth's creation and a number of stories in the thousands of years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. Between that and other compilations of various "lost tales," Amazon has plenty of material to work with. Much of it would need significant revision and adaptation to work as a proper series, but the bones of many good stories are there.
However, if you accept the notion that Bezos is looking for his own Game of Thrones, it's far more likely that Middle-earth as we currently know it will be more of a blank canvas for Amazon's team to draw their own, more modern stories on. For all their surface similarities, The Lord of the Rings and George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire tell wildly different stories, and if Amazon wants to draw on the traits that made the Game of Thrones series such a hit, we're probably going to end up with a lot of stories that Tolkien himself never conceived.
Of course, Amazon new series won't be the first new narrative set in Middle-earth. The most recent example is the 2014 video game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (and its newly-released sequel). The game drew players in by using the familiar setting of Mordor, a familiar timeframe (between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), iconic characters like Gollum and crucial elements like the Rings of Power. But it also starred entirely new characters, expanded Tolkien's mythology and told an entirely new story.
It wasn't perfect (that ending!), but Shadow of Mordor overall did an admirable job at taking a familiar setting and writing a new story around it. It's the kind of product that could serve as a blueprint for how Amazon can create a new property that will hook loads of viewers while still paying service to longtime fans. Simply being able to reference The Lord of the Rings will be enough to bring in many viewers -- millions have seen Jackson's films and won't care if the series is telling stories Tolkien himself didn't dream up. Add in the fact that Game of Thrones will wrap up in 2018 or 2019 and it's easy to imagine those viewers getting their fantasy methadone from Amazon's new series.
Ultimately, the enduring popularity of Tolkien's work is what Amazon is banking on here. Yes, there will absolutely be a cadre of fans who hate what Amazon produces, but that group will almost certainly be outnumbered by people enjoyed The Lord of the Rings at some point in their life and decide to give Amazon's series a shot -- if the show is good.
For that to happen, the series needs someone at the helm who lives and breathes Tolkien, someone who recognizes the themes that permeate his work. They need to recognize what makes Tolkien unique, and what makes Middle-earth a different place than Westeros. It's a necessity for adaptations to take liberties with source material, and it seems Amazon's Lord of the Rings series will take many. But if it can keep the spirit of Middle-earth intact, it has a chance to be remembered as more than Amazon's attempt to cash in on the Game of Thrones craze."
LoTR fans who would like to know even more will enjoy this article from English publication NME.
New Zealand Vacations itineraries include visits to many of the sites used in the 'Lord of The Rings' and 'Hobbit' movies.
See also -