Amazon Studios has announced that it will make a multi-season television adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s (1911, Classics and English) stories set in Middle-earth. Amazon will collaborate with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema to explore new storylines that precede Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The deal for the TV rights is reported to have cost Amazon between $200 million and $250 million and it is expected to become the most expensive television production ever, with estimates suggesting that over the course of five seasons it could cost $1 billion to produce.
“The Lord of the Rings is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, Head of Scripted Series at Amazon Studios. “We are honoured 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.”
Matt Galsor, a representative for the Tolkien Estate and Trust and HarperCollins, said: “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. Sharon and the team at Amazon Studios have exceptional ideas to bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on JRR Tolkien’s original writings.”
The Lord of the Rings trilogy of novels was named Amazon customers’ favourite book of the millennium in 1999 and Britain’s best-loved novel of all time in the BBC’s The Big Read in 2003. Its theatrical adaptations, from New Line Cinema and director Peter Jackson, earned a combined gross of nearly $6 billion worldwide.
Details about the story and cast are not yet known. Amazon has said that it will explore new storylines that precede the events of The Fellowship of the Ring (the first part of The Lord of the Rings), with potential for an additional spin-off series. Some members of the cast of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film adaptations have hinted that they would be interested in reprising their roles. Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf, was asked in a radio interview whether it would be annoying to see another actor’s portrayal of the iconic wizard on screen. He replied: “What do you mean, another Gandalf? I haven’t said yes because I haven’t been asked. But are you suggesting that someone else is going to play it? Gandalf is over 7,000 years old, so I’m not too old.”
It is understood that the terms of the contract insist that Amazon must start production within two years, but it is unlikely that the first series will reach our screens any sooner than 2020. It will be available to view for free for all Amazon Prime members.