Amazon’s big Middle-earth-set show based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien is slowly moving forward. During this week’s Television Critics Association press tour, the company says that it has brought on two writers, JD Payne and Patrick McKay, to write and develop the series.
The two writers are relative newcomers: both worked on the original script for Star Trek: Beyond, were part of the writer’s room for Godzilla vs. Kong, and are writing the upcoming sequel to Star Trek: Beyond, which will be helmed by S.J. Clarkson. Deadline says that the duo will help manage a writer’s room for the project, and that Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke said during a panel they will now work on continued development for the show. She also indicated that the studio had gone through a number of pitches before selecting Payne and McKay.
Earlier this year, reports surfaced that Amazon might set its show in the same world as that of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. While Jackson has denied that he’s involved in the series, Deadline says that “conversations continue with Jackson about a potential involvement and about possibly filming the series on his sets in New Zealand.”
The Middle-earth show reportedly won’t be a straight-up adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it will “explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring,” with a possible spinoff series also part of the deal. The show won’t come cheap: Amazon is reportedly paying around $250 million for the rights to the franchise, with the production costs estimated to reach $500 million.
Bringing on Payne and McKay — both of whom have extensively worked in other, existing universes — to develop the show is a solid next step in bringing the show closer to reality. In their statement, they said that “the rich world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is filled with majesty and heart, wisdom and complexity,” and that they recognize the “great responsibility” that they have in adapting it.
Last year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos directed his company’s studio to find “high-end drama series with a global appeal.” Since then, the studio has been on a tear, snapping up major science fiction and fantasy properties including Larry Niven’s Ringworld and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, an adaptation of Channel 4’s Utopia, William Gibson’s Peripheral, a show about Nazi-hunters from Jordan Peele, Simon Stålenhag’s Tales from the Loop art, and has picked up recently canceled shows like The Expanse and Lucifer on top of this adaptation of Tolkien’s epic world.