Across the landscape of current pop culture releases, along with everything coming from Marvel and DC, almost nothing is seeing as much success as Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The new series broke records on its opening day with 25 million viewers tuning into the first episode, and it’s only continued to grow since then.
The Rings of Power has accomplished this even while dealing with its own round of review bombing, which has been a disturbingly regular trend across other franchises like Marvel and Star Wars as well. Thankfully, Lucasfilm has already offered its support for the Amazon Prime team as this new look into the Lord of the Rings franchise continues to thrive in the spotlight.
Even following six of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth adventures in the 21st century, it actually took quite a long time to get Rings of Power off the ground, particularly with its nearly $1 billion price tag for production. And as it turns out, it was even rejected by another company due to its unique approach – one that planned for similarities to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Rings of Power’s Inspiration from Marvel
As revealed by The Hollywood Reporter, new information about Amazon Prime’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has made its way into the public, specifically about when it was pitched to networks.
According to one insider, Netflix pitched to “[take] the Marvel approach,” which would have meant producing a number of solo projects based on Lord of the Rings characters – including Gandalf and Aragorn – before culminating in something bigger, which “completely freaked out the (J.R.R. Tolkien) estate.”
Dozens of established writers, directors, and producers were interviewed for positions, including MCU directors Joe and Anthony Russo. In the end, the team decided to go with showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne, with McKay even calling the duo “dark horse candidates:”
“The people we were up against have résumés that on paper would be more suited to the gig. We were the dark horse candidates.”
The MCU’s Russo Brothers pitched for a solo outing in the Third Age starring Aragorn, who was played by Viggo Mortensen in Peter Jackson’s saga. The Theory of Everything‘s Anthony McCarten had a Shakespearan tale in mind, reportedly having been considered a strong contender to lead the venture.
McKay and Payne initially pitched the show as something similar to 1995’s Braveheart, wanting the series to be “real and lived in.” But when they were asked back for a second pitch, they were told that they had to “go pitch the whole show…to stay alive for the next round,” meaning “all five seasons” would have to be brought to the table.
This led to the duo frantically brainstorming and bringing everything together in one marathon writing session, with McKay remembering a moment when they realized what they wanted to bring with this new series:
“When that session of fevered creativity and inspiration ended, we had a moment of silence. I looked at the board like: ‘That’s it, this is what the show wants to be.’”
This led to them having much more confidence for their next meetings, which included “seven more pitches” before things moved forward.
Payne and McKay described the rest of the process as something like “a six-month presidential campaign” as they tried to convince executives to push the show ahead, even meeting the Tolkien estate and greeting Simon Tolkien in Elvish. McKay also drew a map of the Lord of the Rings world in another meeting, circling a portion of the map and telling executives “this is everything you’ve seen in The Lord of the Rings movies” and pointing to other unexplored areas while noting how “there’s so much more story to tell!”
The showrunners also asked mentor and former boss J.J. Abrams to put in a good word for them with Amazon, feeling that this “moved the needle” once Abrams followed through on it.
Marvel Making an Impact on Growing Entertainment World
No franchise in entertainment history has been able to do what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has in terms of its interconnective threads through dozens of unique movies and TV shows. This is the case more so than ever in Phase 4, even with wild concepts like the Multiverse being introduced, although Marvel Studios has been the only team to enjoy this kind of success with an endeavor like that.
Even while it hasn’t been duplicated, seeing Netflix hoping to use the MCU as inspiration for its Lord of the Rings hopes continues to show just how much Marvel has done for the industry.
Considering how expansive J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books and movies are, The Rings of Power certainly has a chance to expand far further if given the right opportunity. And for its showrunners, taking the opportunity to tease that potential in their pitch seemed to be the right move as they look to keep the show going for as long as possible.
Episode 7 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will premiere on Amazon Prime on Friday, October 7.