The man set to step into Peter Jackson's shoes has arrived in Auckland.
Spanish director J.A. Bayona, who has has signed on to direct the first two episodes of Amazon's upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series, arrived in Auckland on 1 December.
His most recent credit is blockbuster Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which grossed over US$1.3 billion (NZ$2 billion) worldwide. He made a name for himself with his first feature film, critically acclaimed thriller The Orphanage. It premiered to a 10-minute standing ovation at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and scooped up seven Goya Awards.
Other films of his you may recognise are The Impossible, A Monster Calls, and the first two episodes of Showtime's Penny Dreadful.
"J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honour and a joy to join this amazing team," he said on his arrival in Auckland..
"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."
In addition to directing, Bayona will also be an executive producer for the LOTR series alongside his producing partner Belén Atienza.
He has been warmly welcomed by the writing team, lead by JD Payne and Patrick McKay and consulted by Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman. "We are thrilled to have J.A. and Belén joining the fellowship as we continue to develop this epic series," Payne and McKay said.
"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," said Payne.
Little more is known about the series, beyond its record-breaking costs, in excess of US$1 billion, and the premise of exploring new storylines which preceded The Fellowship of the Ring. It's expected to premiere in 2021.
Tolkien purists can breathe a sigh of relief, as Amazon’s deal for the rights to the Lord of the Rings series reportedly include quite a few rules regarding the show’s faithfulness to the source material.
Speaking to the German Tolkien Society, Tolkien scholar and series supervisor Tom Shippey indicated that the Tolkien estate has veto power over any content in the series that doesn’t correspond with the author’s vision for the saga.
“The Tolkien estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered,” said Shippey. “Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenorean expedition, returns to Númenor. There, he corrupts the Númenoreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same.”
Shippey also confirmed that the Third Age of Middle-earth — in which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are set — is off-limits for the series, suggesting that there won’t be any hobbits to be found in the show.
Watch this space as we bring you further updates.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the Hobbiton movie set, inspired by the last LOTR series continues to attract thousands of visitors, with attendance records being broken every year.
Dart River Safaris takes fans to a remote LOTR Glenorchy location.
Update - a January 14 report from New Zealand media company Stuff provides a further update, including the first cast announcements.