The Lord of the Rings is, of course, one of the most beloved (and lucrative) fantasy properties the world has ever known, a status that was exponentially upgraded by director Peter Jackson’s landmark, Oscar-generating, trilogy of films, later increased with his The Hobbit films. This fact clearly motivated Amazon to break out a $250 million check last fall to acquire the rights to the J.R.R. Tolkien-crafted property with designs for a TV series. Yet, with that check only covering the deposit, the rent for this proverbial apartment appears to be too damn high.
New details have emerged about Amazon and Warner’s untitled, five-season-committed, Lord of the Rings television adaptation series, notably about its price tag. While last month, Reuters reported that production and marketing for the series could end bringing costs to around the $500 million mark, the latest rumblings, as reported by THR, indicate that said expenses may double that, around the $1 billion mark, manifesting as “the most expensive TV show ever.” The new number accounts for more elements such as casting, producers and visual effects, all of which are not even close to being finalized.
The staggering cost will certainly raise the narrative that, despite the prestige the Tolkien-created property provides, that Amazon may have unwittingly mired itself in the entertainment industry equivalent of the Dead Marshes; something that HBO avoided during the bidding stage. Contextually, 2001-2003’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy cost $281 million and 2012-2014’s The Hobbit Trilogy cost $655 million, a shocking figure in its own right at the time that could become dwarfed (hobbited?) by a television series that costs more than all six films combined. That’s a sobering thought.
Consequently, the focus is turning to speculation on who has the know-how to help Amazon navigate this perilous predicament. Of course, the first name that likely springs to mind is Peter Jackson, who, with writers Fran Walsh (his wife) and Philippa Boyens, has served as the authority of all-things Tolkien in the live-action arena. Interestingly enough, Jackson remains unattached to the TV project. He wasn’t even involved with the initial TV deal, which an involved attorney, Matt Galsor, called, “the most complicated deal I’ve ever seen.”
However, there is a reasonable chance that could change, with Jackson’s prospective involvement of some kind, likely as an executive producer. Jackson’s attorney, Peter Nelson, spoke to THR – a positive sign that talks are on the horizon – stating of the Lord of the Rings TV project:
“It’s very much a creature of the times. We are in an era where streamers are bidding up the price of programming. I think Amazon is taking a page out of the studios’ emphasis on franchises. They also are realizing that with the overproduction of television, you need to get the eyeballs to the screen, and you can do that with franchise titles.”
It would be odd if a Tolkien-related live-action project, especially a TV series of this apparent magnitude, does not have the involvement of Peter Jackson. His presence would certainly be a morale booster for this still-nascent television project, regardless of what arena of Tolkien’s sprawling Middle Earth mythology it covers, or which characters it will choose to showcase.