Only two episodes remain in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’s first season, and excluding a few nitpicks here and there, the response to the series has been generally solid. Still, some fans can’t help but wonder what shape the story might have taken if it ended up anywhere other than Amazon Prime. Thanks to a new piece from The Hollywood Reporter, we finally have some answers. Currently, The Rings of Power takes place during Middle-earth’s Second Age, a time period that wasn’t thoroughly explored onscreen until this year. But it turns out that rival platforms had some very different ideas for the franchise’s small-screen debut.
It’s no secret that once J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate opened the floor to pitches for a Lord of the Rings TV series, every major network and streaming service in town jumped at the chance to add the author’s fantasy world to its repertoire and deliver the next Game of Thrones. However, before Amazon planted its own flag in Middle-earth, the list of candidates included HBO and Netflix. According to sources, HBO pitched a return to the Third Age, the era famously covered in Tolkein’s original Lord of the Rings series. In other words, they basically wanted to remake Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning film trilogy. And since those films remain beloved by fans all over the world, this was understandably out of the question.
Netflix, on the other hand, had its heart set on the spinoff route. They reportedly pitched the estate on multiple shows featuring different Lord of the Rings characters. These included vehicles for Gandalf and Aragorn, who were brought to life in Jackson’s movies by Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen, respectively. THR doesn’t specify whether these would have been prequel series that examined the characters’ younger years. Regardless, the “Marvel approach” (as one source described it) didn’t sit well with Netflix’s audience. In fact, it “completely freaked out the estate.”
In the end, Amazon won out by promising Tolkein’s reps “a pledge of a close relationship” that gave them a voice in the creative process. Deep pockets probably helped as well. But although it was previously claimed that Amazon spent $250 million just to acquire the rights to the books, other sources now indicate that Netflix execs were the ones willing to spend that much. Instead, Amazon’s bid was “tens of millions less” than this. But they still wound up spending over $460 million to make The Rings of Power’s first season.
The penultimate episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will premiere on Amazon Prime this Friday, October 7.
Are you glad that Tolkien’s estate ultimately went with Amazon’s pitch for the franchise? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!
Recommended Reading: J.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
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