The Oscar-winning director says Amazon asked him to be involved with its megabudget ‘Lord of the Rings’ series — and then cut off contact. Amazon suggests the story isn’t quite so simple.
Peter Jackson is weighing in on Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings TV series.
The Oscar-winning director of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies reveals the studio asked him to be involved with its upcoming megabudget series 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 be involved — [writer-producer Fran Walsh] and I — and I said, ‘That’s an impossible question to answer without seeing a script,’” Jackson recalled 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 The Business podcast, talking to The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters, the filmmaker echoes the anecdote and phrases it slightly differently, yet makes the same point: “About four, five years ago, they asked if I would be interested in it,” he says. “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 the U.K.’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 toward 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.” Jackson adds that Amazon is “betting the farm on Tolkien,” given its massive half-billion-dollar budget for the show’s debut season.
Amazon Studios 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 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 legal 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 — whom one source described as an advocate of luring Jackson to the project — departing the company in 2019. Perhaps even more crucially, sources say 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.
Moving on, Jackson was also asked if a movie studio would greenlight his trilogy today, answering: “probably not. … Not with a director like me and a studio that would put its money on the line for three movies,” he says.
As for his trilogy’s legacy, Jackson says, “If there was anything we gave to the ongoing community of filmmaking, [it’s] 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.