EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Studios’ high-profile The Lord of the Rings TV series has made a key hire. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona has been tapped to direct the first two episodes of the big-scope fantasy drama, following in the footsteps of Peter Jackson, who directed the feature adaptations of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novels.
Set in Middle-earth, the series will explore new storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.
“J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team,” said Bayona. “I can’t wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never before seen story.”
Bayona also will executive produce alongside his producing partner Belén Atienza.
The Lord of the Rings series is written by feature scribes JD Payne and Patrick McKay. They lead a writers room, which is believed to include Breaking Bad alumna Gennifer Hutchison and Game of Thrones veteran Bryan Cogman, among others.
“We are thrilled to have J.A. and Belén joining the fellowship as we continue to develop this epic series,” said Payne and McKay. “We have been great admirers of J.A.’s work for years, and know that his epic, cinematic and deeply heartfelt aesthetic is the perfect sensibility to bring Middle-earth to life anew.”
Bayona’s first feature film, critically acclaimed thriller The Orphanage, executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, premiered to a 10-minute standing ovation at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and later won seven Goya Awards in Spain, including best new director.
Bayona most recently directed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which grossed more than $1.3 billion worldwide last year. He also directed the features The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and A Monster Calls, starring Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones, as well as the first two episodes of Showtime’s hit series Penny Dreadful.
“The scope and breadth of J.A.’s world-building is exactly the right fit for our ambitions for The Lord of the Rings,” said Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios. “He’s a passionate and collaborative director who has brought new stories to life with his multitalented producing partner, Belén. We are all excited for them to join our writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay, and we can’t think of a better way to begin this journey to Middle-earth.”
The Lord of the Rings series, which has a multi-season commitment in a blockbuster nine-figure rights deal with the Tolkien estate, is produced by Amazon Studios in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which produced the 2000s Peter Jackson trilogy.