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Lord of the Rings on Amazon Prime: cast, potential plot and what we know so far

The One Ring from J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series
(Image credit: Future)

The Lord of the Rings will soon make its way to Amazon Prime Video in the form of a TV series, but it'll be a while before we see the fruits of those labours. Work on the show is ongoing and it might be that we don't see or hear anything concrete about a release date until next year.

We've already been treated to two film trilogies – one is better than the other, admittedly – but this is the first instance where a live-action Lord of the Rings TV show has been attempted, and it'll depict an era we haven't seen on screen before.

So, what do we know about the series so far? The latest tidbits come from a current and past Lord of the Rings actor, while unwelcome news about stunt injuries on set have began to crop up once more.

Below, you'll also find sections relating to other news and rumors surrounding Amazon's Lord of the Rings, including a possible release date, cast, potential plot details and more. 

Let's waste no more time, then, diving into everything worth knowing about Lord of the Rings season 1 on Amazon Prime.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Amazon's TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth novel series
  • Where can I watch it? Amazon Prime Video
  • When will it be released? Probably 2021
  • What did Amazon pay for Lord of the Rings? $250 million for the rights alone – and that's before you enter production
  • Are the Lord of the Rings movies on Amazon Prime? Yes

Lord of the Rings on Amazon release date: 2022?

The Eye of Sauron and Mount Doom from Peter Jackson's adaptation of Lord of the Rings

(Image credit: New Line Cinema / WingNut Films)

At the moment, there isn't one, but filming has been underway since February 2020 (per Stuff.co.nz) so you would hope we'd hear something soon.

Production on the series hasn't been without its issues. For one, stunt injuries have apparently been common on set, and it seems that those early fears being rectified haven't completely gone away.

Stuntwoman Elissa Cadwell was injured just days into filming the first two episodes and, in more recent times, the New Zealand Herald and Variety have carried quotes from "furious" stunt personnel about the dangerous work they've had to carry out during production.

Amazon has gone on record to state that it takes the health and safety of all cast and crew "extremely seriously", but it's clear that not everything is rosy on set. Here's hoping that things improve from here on out.

Meanwhile, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic also caused production to shut down in New Zealand in March 2020 (per New Zealand Herald).

In July 2020, though, New Zealand government minister Phil Twyford granted exemptions to seven film and TV productions. This allowed cast and crew members to enter the country during the pandemic while its borders remained closed to non-New Zealanders. 

The Lord of the Rings was one such project, and pre-production recommenced in July 2020 (h/t Stuff.co.nz). Filming resumed in late September, according to Deadline, with principal photography starting up again in January 2021 following a two-break Christmas break (h/t New Zealand Herald).

Hunters director Wayne Che Yip will direct four of the series' eight episodes, with the British-Chinese helmer following J.A. Bayona in the directorial hot seat. Bayona directed the series' first two instalments, including the pilot episode, and production on these wrapped on December 23 (h/t ComicBook.com).

Another directorial addition is Charlotte Brändström. The Swedish-French director, whose credits include Netflix’s The Witcher and Jupiter’s Legacy, as well as Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, has been drafted to direct two of season 1’s episodes.

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With principal photography still ongoing in New Zealand, we shouldn't expect Amazon's Lord of the Rings series to arrive anytime soon. If filming wraps within the next few months, it's possible that the TV show could land in Q4 2021. 

It would be well-timed, on Amazon's part, if its Lord of the Rings series arrived for the winter TV schedule. It'll be 20 years since The Fellowship of the Ring movie arrived in theaters, so lining up the TV show's premiere for that date would be the perfect anniversary gift.

All of this depends on how long the filmmaking process will take, though, and whether reshoots will be necessary. According to Benjamin Walker, who was part of the show's December 2020 cast announcements, it could be a while before we see season 1 air.

Speaking to Collider, in June 2021, about how much longer it'll take to film season 1, Walker said: "It is a bit nebulous at this point. We've been here a long time and they'll let us go when they're done with us."

Australian actor Tom Budge has already left the TV show after Amazon Studios decided to go in a different direction with his character. If there are other adjustments needed during filming, we could see the series further delayed, which would push its release date back.

Morfydd Clark, who will portray a young Galadriel in Amazon's Lord of the Rings, also spoke to Esquire (in April 2021) about her involvement. 

Clark explained that she would be filming in New Zealand for "a few months" before being able to return home. Clark also seemingly admitted that she was locked in for five seasons of Amazon's production, which tallies with reports that Amazon want this to be a long-running TV series.

Despite comments to the contrary, however, our predicted 2022 release could be on track if a new leak is to be believed. According to the Fellowship of Fans Twitter account, principal photography on season 1 is due to end on July 30 – although there's been no official confirmation on this from Amazon.

This is a week earlier than the series' initial August 6 wrap date, but only takes the main run of filming into account. As we said, reshoots may be necessary but, right now, it seems that Amazon's Lord of the Rings is in the final stretch of filming.

Check out the tweet below and make your own minds up:

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Lord of the Rings on Amazon cast: who is playing who?

Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Aston) in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

A series on this scale needs a huge cast, and Amazon's Lord of the Rings ensemble is absolutely stacked. 

There are 39 actors currently listed as appearing in the TV show, according to the official casting page (Budge is still there despite having departed the project). You can check out who will be appearing in Amazon's adaptation on that page, and then read on to find out who may be portraying who.

According to Variety, Morfydd Clark (Saint Maud) has been cast as young Galadriel. Lord of the Rings fans will know that the powerful elf was played by Cate Blanchett in the film trilogy. As this series is set during the Second Age, though, Galadriel will be younger than her movie counterpart.

Another role that we're fairly certain of is Simon Merrells. According to the actor's biography page on the Warring and McKenna management agency website, Merrells (Good Omens) will be playing an original character called Trevyn.

There are also rumors surrounding the identities of other actors' roles. 

Robert Aramayo, who played a young Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, is believed to have replaced Will Poulter as Beldor, one of the TV show's main heroes (h/t Deadline).

In July 2019, The Hollywood Reporter claimed that Markella Kavenagh (The Cry) had signed on to play a character called Tyra, while a December 2020 Deadline report suggested that Lloyd Owen (Monarch of the Glen) would portray someone known as Loda. 

Joseph Mawle, who played Benjen Stark in Game of Thrones, is also thought to have been cast as the series antagonist Oren (h/t Deadline). However, it's unclear if this character has ties to Sauron – more on him later – or if he'll be a supporting villain.

The final rumor concerns Kip Chapman's character, with the Fellowship of Fans Twitter fan account alleging that the Westside actor is portraying someone called Selin. 

Other series regulars, according to an official Amazon's Lord of the Rings Twitter thread, include General Hospital's Nazanin Boniadi, and Welsh theater actor Owain Arthur.

Additionally, Amazon Studios announced 20 cast members who would play supporting roles in the TV show last December (h/t Deadline). Those announcements included British comedian-actor Sir Lenny Henry, Years and Years' Maxim Baldry, Divinity's Maxine Cunliffe, Power's Cynthia Addai-Robinson and A Discovery of Witches' Trystan Gravelle, who recently gave us a hint at his character's potential look for the show.

Amazon Studios rounded out the cast for its Lord of the Rings TV series on July 1. In a press release, the company confirmed that Charles Edwards (The Crown), Will Fletcher (The Road Dance), Amelie Child Villiers (The Machine) and Beau Cassidy (Nude Tuesday) were added to the show's ensemble. There were no details, though, on who each actor would be playing in the series.

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One thing that's certain is that we won't see the likes of Frodo, Sam or Aragorn in this adaptation. For reasons you'll read further down this page, these characters were born in Middle-Earth's Third Age, which places the show outside of their timelines. If you're expecting anything other than a cameo from any of the film trilogy's hobbits or men, you'll be sorely disappointed.

For what it's worth, Sean Astin (who played Samwise Gamgee in the movie trilogy), thinks that the TV show will be "amazing". Speaking to ComingSoon.net, Astin said he was "very excited to see how it turns out", even though he admitted that not everyone would be as on board with a Lord of the Rings TV series as he is.

Meanwhile, there are key Second Age players, including elven High King Gil-galad, elven smith Celebrimbor, dwarf King Durin III, and Numenorian King Elendil, who haven't had their castings revealed yet. It's likely that we'll have confirmation on these when filming ends, but we'll update this section when we hear more.

Lord of the Rings on Amazon plot: what is the story about?

On this front, we have more concrete news. Taking to Twitter in January, TheOneRing.net uploaded the synopsis that Amazon Studios released just weeks into 2021:

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Obviously, the synopsis doesn't dive into any character reveals or heavy plot points, but there's enough here to go on for now.

Amazon's Lord of the Rings will be set during Middle-Earth's Second Age, which lasted for nearly 3,500 years and ended with Sauron's defeat due to the alliance between men and elves. This is the battle that opened Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, so it's possible that we may see this adapted again at some point in Amazon's series.

Judging by Amazon's synopsis, however, that will be some way off if it does appear. There's lots of Middle-Earth history that Amazon's Lord of the Rings could cover, and we know that we'll be seeing live-action debuts for new areas of Tolkien's world in the TV show.

It would be amazing for audiences to visit the likes of Numenor, Lindon and Eregion, and seeing Barad-dur being built – as well as the proper forging of the One Ring – would be awesome call backs to the source material and Peter Jackson's Lords of the Rings trilogy. 

It sounds like we'll be seeing one of those locations on screen, too. According to the Fellowship of Fans Twitter fan account, leaked set reports have suggested that Numenorian guilds (weapons dealers, food traders and more) will be depicted during the show.

While we wait for more news on the story front, we have also seen a map of what Middle-Earth looked like during the Second Age:

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Amazon is reportedly committed to producing five seasons of its Lord of the Rings series, according to a 2018 IGN report. Per a GameSpot article in November 2019, only two of those season have currently been greenlit. 

Future instalments will seemingly depend on the Tolkien estate, too, with an Engadget article from 2019 quoting Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey as saying that the author's estate has the right to veto anything that strays too far from Middle-Earth's lore.

With Amazon sticking to much of the Second Age's lore, then, we should see how Sauron returns and almost ends up ruling over Middle-Earth. The Lord of the Rings' big bad has a huge role in how the Second Age plays out, so we can expect to see his rise to power again and the eons-spanning fallout after he tries to enslave men, dwarves, and elves with the Rings of Power.

Another element of Amazon's adaptation is that it'll be more adult than some fans have envisaged. According to TheOneRing.net, Amazon hired a well-known New Zealand intimacy coordinator – Jennifer Ward-Lealand – back in October 2020. 

It's unclear what level of intimacy Ward-Lealand has been hired for, but some Tolkien fans have already voiced their displeasure over Ward-Lealand's hiring. Why? Well, intimacy – as an industry term – usually refers to nudity or sex scenes. Think along the lines of HBO's adaptation of Game of Thrones and you'll get the idea. 

If, and it's a big if as we don't know Amazon's plan for its adaptation, nudity is a part of the company's Lord of the Rings series, you can expect it to receive a high age rating when it finally airs.

Lord of the Rings on Amazon cost: how much will it be to make?

Amazon bought the rights to the Lord of the Rings TV show for $250 million in November 2017 (h/t Deadline). If Amazon completes its five-season run, it'll be expected that the entire production will have cost $1 billion, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This would make Amazon's Lord of the Rings the most expensive series of all-time.

That $1 billion mark is moving closer to reality, if not more, too. As New Zealand-based publication Stuff recently revealed, season 1 of the show will reportedly cost $650m New Zealand dollars to produce. Converting that into US dollars, Amazon's Lord of the Rings season 1 will cost upwards of $465 million.

However, it turns out that Amazon Studios will get a portion of its production costs knocked off the bill by the New Zealand government. Reuters has reported that Amazon is getting an extra five per cent from the nation's Screen Production Grant due to the jobs and work it has generated for the country's economy. This means that Amazon Studios is eligible to receive a rebate of NZ$162 million (US$116 million) from the New Zealand government – funds that will reduce Amazon's financial outlay for season 1, at the very least.

Amazon Studios is working alongside HarperCollins and New Line Cinema – the latter helped produced both film trilogies – as well as the Tolkien estate. It's unclear, though, if New Line is helping to pay for production costs.

Lord of the Rings on Amazon crew: who is involved?

J.A. Bayona will lead production on Amazon Prime's Lord of the Rings TV show

(Image credit: Amazon)

As well as Yip, Bayona and Brändström, key members of the production team include show creators J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay. The two writers have been on board since July 2018 (h/t The Hollywood Reporter) and are also executively producing the series.

Other executive producers include Bayona, Lindsay Weber, Callum Greene, Jason Cahill, and Gennifer Hutchinson. Kate Hawley is leading costume design on the series, while concept artist John Howe – one the film's chief conceptual designers – is also part of the crew.

One person who hasn't returned for Amazon's adaptation is Peter Jackson. The director of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies had been tapped by Amazon, but ultimately declined to get involved. In a 2018 Metro UK article, Jackson revealed that he and his partners were happy to look over scripts for the TV show if necessary, before adding that he "wished them [Amazon] all the best" with their adaptation. 

Around the same time, Jackson also told Fandom that he "would hope to just be able to go into a Tolkien story and enjoy it like an audience member, which I’ve never been able to do". Jackson will get his wish, then, when Lord of the Rings lands exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in the future.

Finally, Howard Shore – who scored all six Lord of the Rings movies – has revealed that he hasn't been contacted about writing the music for Amazon's TV show. Back in January in an interview with Observer.com, the composer admitted that he would "consider it" if the streaming giant approached him, but we'll have to wait and see if there's movement on this front.

Lord of the Rings on Amazon: will The War of the Rohirrim movie tie into it?

The official logo for The War of the Rohirrim animated movie

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation Studio)

No, it won't. Lord of the Rings on Amazon Prime is set centuries before The Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim, so don't expect there to be any crossover between these events.

For those who may have missed this announcement: a while back, Variety reported that Warner Bros. Animation is developing a Lord of the Rings anime movie.

Focusing on the history of Helm's Deep, the legendary Rohan stronghold that was the scene for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' massive battle, War of the Rohirrim will tell the tale of King Helm Hammerhand, whose reign is remembered for a long and costly war that occurred throughout his time on the throne.

Anime filmmaker Kenji Kamiyama, who has helmed Netflix's Ultraman series among other projects, will direct War of the Rohirrim, which will supposedly tie into the six main Lord of the Rings films.

However, given that King Hammerhand's reign took place around 260 years before Lord of the Rings' main events, it won't be linked to Amazon's TV series. The latter is set during Middle Earth's Second Age, which is set millennia before The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.

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Tom Power

Hired as TechRadar's entertainment reporter, Tom can be found covering all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you can wrap your eyes around. He also produces original content including reviews, opinion pieces, and interview-led features with the world's biggest actors, directors, writers, producers and studios, which is always a fun time. Follow him on Twitter @thomp1987.