It’s common knowledge, at this point, that Amazon Studios paid roughly $700 million for the first season of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” That does include more than $200 million for the rights agreement with the Tolkien Estate, but even still, that’s a mammoth amount of money. And instead of going with tried and true showrunners or filmmakers with an established pedigree, Amazon Studios chose relative unknowns, Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne, to bring ‘Rings of Power’ to life. But apparently, there were some true heavy hitters in the running, also.
In a new profile in THR, the long journey of bringing “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” to Amazon Prime Video is detailed. And though there are some fans who believe that Amazon Studios haphazardly just handed over the keys to a billion-dollar franchise to Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne without thinking much about it, that’s hardly the case. In fact, it took a huge amount of effort for Amazon to even nab the rights, and even then, Payne and McKay were far from the biggest names the studio talked to about adapting Tolkien’s classic story.
The profile includes a history of the bidding war between studios for the TV rights of “The Lord of the Rings.” Apparently, Amazon was competing against Netflix and HBO for the rights to the series. HBO pitched the Tolkien Estate with a plan to adapt the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy as a more faithful TV series. (The estate is famous for not necessarily liking Peter Jackson’s films.) While Netflix took the MCU approach and pitched a whole series of connected shows featuring recognizable names as lead characters, such as series focused on Gandalf, Aragorn, etc…
Ultimately, Amazon won the rights and was then on the hunt for showrunners to craft a show worthy of the Tolkien name. The studio spoke with Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten, best known for his work on “The Theory of Everything,” who pitched something more Shakespearean. Also, the Russo Brothers, of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” fame, wanted to adapt The Third Age as “an Aragorn story.”
Then came Payne and McKay, who offered a complete 5-season plan to bring The Second Age (something that wasn’t necessarily expanded on in the original “Lord of the Rings” novels) to life. That pitch (which actually included more than a half-dozen pitches, apparently) is what won the duo the job.
Now, we have “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” which is beginning to wrap up its first season and already begun filming Season 2. (Though Season 2 is going to take “a couple of years” to complete.) You can watch Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video now.