Peter Jackson is weighing in on Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings TV series prequel to his Oscar-winning trilogy of films.
The director reveals the studio asked him to be involved with its upcoming mega-budgeted The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and promised to send him scripts – then never contacted him again.
“They asked me if I wanted to involved – [writer-producer Fran Walsh] and I – and I said, ‘That’s an impossible question to answer without seeing a script,’” Jackson recalls to Scott Feinberg on The Hollywood Reporter‘s Awards Chatter podcast. “So they said, ‘As soon as we get the first couple scripts, we’ll send them to you.’ And the scripts never showed up. That’s the last thing I heard, which is fine. No complaints at all.”
In an upcoming podcast talking to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Kim Masters, the filmmaker echoed the anecdote, phrased slightly differently: “About four, five years ago they asked if I would be interested in it… So I said, ‘Have you got the scripts yet?’ Because I know how hard the scripts were to write for the films and I didn’t know the people writing their scripts. They said, ‘Oh no, we haven’t got the scripts yet, but as soon as we do, we’ll send you the scripts.’ So I was waiting for the scripts to arrive and they never did.”
Back in 2018, Jackson told UK’s Metro, “I think they’re going to send us some scripts to see if we can help them along.”
Still, Jackson emphasized that he harbors no hard feelings towards Amazon’s series and is eager to watch it as a fan of the franchise.
“I’ll be watching it,” he says. “I’m not the sort of guy who wishes ill will. Filmmaking is hard enough. If somebody makes a good film or TV show, it’s something to celebrate. The one thing I am looking forward to is actually seeing it as a perfectly neutral viewer.”
Amazon responded to Jackson’s comments with the following statement: “In pursuing the rights for our show, we were obligated to keep the series distinct and separate from the films. We have the utmost respect for Peter Jackson and The Lord of The Rings films and are thrilled that he is looking forward to the watching The Rings of Power.”
Sources close to the project describe a complicated and delicate backstory to the situation. First, that the studio has high regard for Jackson and that Rings of Power showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay have privately attempted to make overtures to the filmmaker. But as the statement suggests, there were also concerns about keeping the films (which are owned by Warner Bros.) and TV show separate. There have been executive changes during the time period in question, as well, with former head of genre programming Sharon Tal Yguado – who once source described as an advocate of luring Jackson to the project – departing the company in 2019. Perhaps even more crucially, sources suggest author J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate was against having Jackson on board. This shouldn’t be surprising as the estate had no involvement with his films and Christopher Tolkien has previously slammed the trilogy in the press as “eviscerating” his father’s books, claiming they turned his novels into action movies for young people that lack “beauty and seriousness.” But the estate is involved with the series – Amazon paid the estate an astounding $250 million for the rights to make the show. All that said: One does not simply offer to send Peter Jackson a LOTR script and then leave the man hanging.
Asked if a movie studio would ever greenlight his trilogy today, the director says “probably not.” “Not with a director like me and a studio that would put its money on the line for three movies.” He adds Amazon is “betting the farm on Tolkien” given its massive half-billion dollar budget for the show’s debut season.
As for his trilogy’s legacy, Jackson says, “If there was anything we gave to the ongoing community of filmmaking is that we opened up the CGI bag of tricks to have huge battle scenes.” That’s a bit of a modest answer considering epic fantasy shows such as HBO’s Game of Thrones would likely have never been greenlit if not for his trilogy’s massive box office and awards success.
Jackson is also an awards contender this season for his acclaimed Beatles documentary Get Back, which was nominated for five Emmys.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power follows the forging of the original rings of power during the Second Age that allowed the Dark Lord Sauron to spread evil across Middle-earth. It’s set thousands of years before the events in Jackson’s trilogy. The show premieres on Prime Video on Sept. 2.
– Kim Masters contributed to this report.