With Game of Thrones nearing its end, it seems inevitable that some network will try to fill the fantasy drama niche, and Amazon has put its chips in on a classic, acquiring the rights to make a Lord of the Rings series. The company has been mum on the details so far, only saying that the series is “set in Middle-earth” and that the adaptation “will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.” It’s also been reported that Amazon is throwing a mint at this thing, including as much as $250 million for the rights alone.
Given the wealth of stories Tolkien wrote outside of the main trilogy, there are a lot of possibilities for Amazon’s new multimillion-dollar baby. Which storylines will the show adapt? More importantly, who will they cast? Here are our dream picks for the various roles a Middle-earth show might have.
The most obvious route for Amazon to take is to adapt stories from The Silmarillion, the collection of works that form the bulk of Middle-earth lore. While The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were novels, The Silmarillion reads more like a book of epic poetry, recounting the creation of the world, the gods who created it, the origins of elves, men, and orcs, and so on.
Ron Perlman as Melkor/Morgoth
Although Sauron is the chief villain of The Lord of the Rings, he is hardly the greatest threat in the history of Middle-earth. Long before the start of the trilogy, Sauron was himself the servant of a greater evil, Melkor, also known as Morgoth. In Tolkien’s creation story, the first beings created by the supreme deity, Eru, were the Ainur, a pantheon of godlike beings. Melkor was a Valar, the mightier class of Ainur, and he was the most powerful of these, and wanted to create on his own; when the Ainur perform the song that creates the physical universe, Melkor introduces discordant themes. When the world of Arda — where the series takes place — formed, Melkor made it his mission to dominate or else ruin it for everyone else. He’s essentially Middle-earth’s analog to Satan, responsible for acts of destruction and evil that shaped the history of Middle-earth.
Morgoth, as the people of Middle-earth call him, appears in various forms — at one point described as “a mountain that wades in the sea and has its head above the clouds and is clad in ice and crowned with smoke and fire.” He normally tends to take the form of a massive figure in armor, probably like Sauron in the intro to Fellowship. That means CGI would be heavily in play here, and as such, the vocal performance would be the most important part for an actor to nail; he has to be charming when he’s trying to manipulate, and convey fury when smashing things with his warhammer.
There are a few solid candidates for this role, but we think Ron Perlman’s resume is the strongest. Over his long career, Perlman has played a variety of characters, many of them villains. He’s got a cavernous voice that could intimidate even Sauron, but is capable of turning on the charm. Perlman also has a deep background in voice acting.
Jude Law as Feanor
Feanor is a major figure in the mythology of Middle-earth. One of the early elves, he was a brilliant craftsman, and his greatest creations were the Silmaril, three gems that contained the essence of the trees that once illuminated the world (after Morgoth destroyed the trees, the other Ainur decided the Sun might be a better light source). The Silmaril were some of the most sought-after items in Middle-earth; Morgoth took them to wear in his crown, and Feanor led an army to try and recover them.
Feanor is a complicated character. He is a genius, an artist, a warrior, but also prideful and greedy; with Melkor’s urging, he becomes convinced his brother Fingolfin is trying to steal the Silmaril from him. For such a character, Jude Law would be an excellent choice. Law can play complex characters, and has taken on a variety of roles; he recently played a nefarious pontiff in The Young Pope, and a robot butler in Netflix’s weird anime Neo Yokio. Agewise, he fits with the film trilogy’s portrayal of Elves being in their 30s or 40s.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Fingolfin
Fingolfin is a less complex role than Feanor; he’s more of a brave, noble king sort, who dies in glorious battle with Morgoth. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is no stranger to fantasy series, and while his fighting in Game of Thrones is hardly the best, most viewers probably wouldn’t notice. He also brings natural charisma, and he’s likable, even at times when he shouldn’t be.
‘The Tale of Beren and Lúthien’
One of the stories in The Silmarillion, The Tale of Beren and Lúthien is a good old fashioned love story. Beren is a human, the lone survivor of a battle against Morgoth’s forces. He finds refuge in the elven kingdom of Doriath, where he falls in love with the king’s daughter, Lúthien. The elven king isn’t sold on the idea of his daughter marrying a Man, so he gives Beren a task: Reclaim one of the Silmaril, which at the time resided on Morgoth’s head. Beren and Lúthien, along with a band of doomed warriors, journey to Morgoth’s fortress.
Alfie Allen as Beren
Beren is a classic folkloric hero, an orphan who seeks revenge, an outlaw who defies the will of an evil ruler. Alfie Allen has displayed the requisite puckish charm as Theon in Game of Thrones — pre-Reek, anyway — and has also shown great range.
Anna Kendrick as Lúthien
Lúthien is a demanding role; the character is graceful, brave, determined, and an excellent singer; at one point in the story, she sings a mournful song that moves even the ruler of the afterlife to pity. Anna Kendrick hits all the right notes, and while she may seem a bit too high profile for such a show, she is an avowed Lord of the Rings fan — Exhibit A, this clip from The Late Show.
‘The Children of Húrin’
Tonally, the story of The Children of Húrin is a sharp contrast to the Lord of the Rings. It’s the tragic story of the titular children, Túrin and Niënor. Morgoth captures Húrin, one of the greatest warriors of Men, and curses his family. His wife sends their son, Túrin, to be raised by elves. Afterwards, she gives birth to a daughter, Niënor. Túrin and Niënor meet as adults, each not knowing the other’s identity, and they journey on a path toward ruin. The story is closer to Greek tragedy than the epic fantasy of The Lord of the Rings, but that bleak tone may suit modern audiences.
James Franco as Turin Turambar
Túrin is a far cry from the typical Middle-earth heroes. He’s a laconic warrior, prone to rage, and lives much of his life as an outlaw. James Franco has a knack for playing anti-heroes, and over the course of his career has shown a willingness to take on a variety of projects. The role would also help redeem his back-to-back Tolkien trivia trouncings at the hands of Stephen Colbert.
Aya Cash as Niënor
Given the tragic nature of the story, the role of Niënor needs to go to someone who can crank up the pathos. Aya Cash’s turn as Gretchen on You’re the Worst is powerful, and shows she can deliver a mental breakdown without veering into caricature.
Bryan Cranston as Húrin
Húrin spends much of the story offscreen, but his appearance at the end is one of the most moving parts of the tragedy. A mighty warrior reduced to a sad wreck in his old age, Húrin would be a perfect role for Bryan Cranston, who has frequently shown he can be both menacing and miserable.
The ‘Stranger Things’ kids as The Young Hobbits
Amazon’s press statement only mentioned a story that takes place before Fellowship; could they company possibly take a Muppet Babies approach, telling a family friendly story of young hobbits, growing up in the Shire, doing what young hobbits do? If so, the casting director ought to just scoop up the lads from Stranger Things. The quartet would translate well to a fantasy series: Noah Schnapp, who played the tormented Will Byers, as Frodo; Finn Wolfhard, who played the dogged best friend Mike, works as Sam; Gaten Matarazzo and Calab McLaughlin, who played Dustin and Lucas, round out the group as Pippin (goofball hobbit) and Merry (serious hobbit), respectively.