It's an exciting time to be a fan of Middle-earth as The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is six episodes deep on Amazon's Prime Video with two more left of the season. The show is set thousands of years before Lord of the Rings, which means it tells a different story from the one in Peter Jackson's beloved movie trilogy. Recently, The Rings of Power showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about their pitch for the series and revealed they had some competition.
Back in 2017, it was announced that J.R.R Tolkien's estate was open to hearing pitches about a Lord of the Rings series, and Prime Video wasn't the only network or streaming site in the running. According to THR, everyone wanted to find "the next Game of Thrones." HBO pitched the idea of Middle-earth's "Third Age," which would have been a remake of Jackson's trilogy while Netflix proposed the idea of multiple shows, including ones about Gandalf and Aragorn, the roles previously played by Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen. One insider explained that Netflix "took the Marvel approach" which "completely freaked out the estate." Even Avengers: Endgame directors Joe And Anthony Russo put their hats in the ring.
Apparently, the directing duo also proposed a Third Age show, pitching it "as an Aragorn story." The Russos were not the only big names who attempted to get a Lord of the Rings series off the ground. The Theory of Everything writer, Anthony McCarten, wanted his version to have a Shakespearean spin. In the end, Payne and McKay won out despite not having big names like their competitors.
"The people we were up against have résumés that on paper would be more suited to the gig," McKay told THR. "We were the dark horse candidates." They even compared the process to "a six-month presidential campaign" as they tried to win over the estate as well as shareholders and executives. "There's so much more story to tell," McKay recalls explaining after he described Tolkien's world and revealed that only a small portion was shown in the Lord of the Rings films.
In a previous interview with SFX Magazine (via CBR), Rings of Power executive-producer J.A. Bayona revealed that embodying Tolkien's "optimism and love" were the biggest priorities when bringing the narrative to life.
"When you read Tolkien's books, you can tell how much he appreciates beauty, so the show is full of beauty," said Bayona. "Tolkien is inherently optimistic, warm and emotional. This is a man who went through some of the darkest things in human history [in the First World War] and he didn't come out of that and write a despairing, awful story."
"[Tolkien] wrote a story about hope, and a little guy succeeding," Bayona explained. "We always felt that it was rule number one that there needed to be true optimism and love, even in the darkest, scariest moments of the show."
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power's next episode drops on Prime Video on October 7th.