The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has finally revealed his involvement with Amazon’s The Rings of Power series. The Lord of the Rings filmmaker, who won Oscars for both the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, says he was asked early on to participate in the new, high-profile series, but that the studio never followed through on its commitment to deliver him screenplays.
According to THR:
“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.”
THR also reports that the beloved filmmaker repeats this anecdote on a forthcoming episode of The Business podcast when speaking with Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter, phrasing it slightly differently while still making 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.”
Jackson added that as a fan of the Tolkien franchise, he has no animosity toward Amazon’s series and is looking forward to watching it.
“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.” But according to insider sources, the situation has a complicated and delicate history. They say that Jackson is highly regarded by the studio, so much so that Rings of Power showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay have secretly tried to approach the director.
There appears to be an effort to keep the movies (owned by Warner Bros.) and Amazon’s TV series separate, due to legal issues. Additionally, there have been managerial changes since the series was first announced. Most notably Sharon Tal Yguado, former head of genre programming who was said to be in favor of bringing Jackson on board, left Amazon in 2019. Also, and to Tolkien’s shame, the estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien reportedly opposes having Jackson on board, according to sources.
What’s more, Christopher Tolkien has repeatedly criticized Jackson’s trilogy in the press for “eviscerating” his father’s works, alleging they turned his tales into action pictures for kids that lack “beauty and gravity.” The estate had no participation with his films. The Amazon series features the Tolkien estate, which was paid a hefty and unprecedented $250 million for the rights to produce the show by Amazon.
Still, asking Peter Jackson to look at your LOTR scripts and then ghosting him? Bad form, and perhaps another harbinger of the quality of the Amazon series.