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Amazon Reportedly Has Lord of the Rings Writers in a Locked Office with a Guard and Fingerprint Scanner

20 February 2019

From Gizmodo:

Amazon has a lot riding on its secretive, $250 million deal with The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate, publisher HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema to produce a streaming show in the franchise’s Middle-Earth setting, with expectations that the budget could cross one billion dollars.

LOTR fans still don’t know an awful lot about the show—initial reports in 2017 suggested that Amazon’s production would primarily deal with “previously unexplored stories,” of which there is a lot to find in Tolkien’s massive fantasy universe. Later in 2018, other reports indicated that the show had signed a deal could use “material” from Peter Jackson’s film series, but it wasn’t clear what that meant. Amazon onboarded talent from Star Trek 4, and rumors proliferated it would involve fan favorite Aragorn. Unsurprisingly, the lack of info is probably due to Amazon’s efforts to keep details from leaking—and Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke said as much in a interview this week with the Hollywood Reporter.

Salke told THR that she, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Senior Vice President of Business Development Jeff Blackburn had scheduled a meeting with members of Tolkien’s estate in New York to “see some art, some creative work that they haven’t shown the world yet.” She added that the room where the writers are working is kept under “lock and key,” with windows kept taped closed and a security guard manning a checkpoint outside with some kind of fingerprint-based security system:

There’s a fantastic writers room working under lock and key. They’re already generating really exciting material. They’re down in Santa Monica. You have to go through such clearance, and they have all their windows taped closed. And there’s a security guard that sits outside, and you have to have a fingerprint to get in there, because their whole board is up on a thing of the whole season.

Link to the rest at Gizmodo

PG notes that stories like the OP are a wonderful way of gaining the attention of a large LOTR fanbase and stirring up interest in the project.

If the story hadn’t happened by accident, Amazon should have started it on purpose. 😉


27 Comments to “Amazon Reportedly Has Lord of the Rings Writers in a Locked Office with a Guard and Fingerprint Scanner”

  1. Pssshaw, this is nothing. In my own office there’s a computer with a four-digit password guard, handcuffs attached to the headboard, and flashlights of the two-cell variety. Getting in and out depends on your ability to step over my seven guitar cases and avoiding the half-full trash container. LOTR and Santa Monica: eat your heart out!

    • You really need to add a fingerprint scanner if you want to keep up with Amazon, John.

    • I am very disappointed that a billionaire’s stronghold doesn’t have a gantlet like the one James Bond (Pierce Brosnan edition) had to go through for this Visa commercial:


      Fingerprint, voice print, eye scans — the works. But you need a booby trap a little more advanced than your guitars. Preferably something that a “Goonie” or that “Home Alone” kid would approve of.

  2. I really don’t get the whole media secrecy thing. What’s the point? Is any LOTR fan not going to see the movie if they find out some stuff about it beforehand?

    • Secrecy keeps the Harpies at bay. We are blessed with so many sophisticated and nuanced experts, they will immediately begin screeching, “Racism,” as soon as they learn anything. With its wide variety of players, LOTR is the mother lode.

    • Per the OP, secrecy is also a good publicity hook.

      • Seriously. There isn’t a Tolkien geek in the world who doesn’t know all of the Silmarillion and the unfinished works that Christopher Tolkien put out over the years.

        If they’re not making stuff up, there isn’t much to surprise us with. Of course, I’m laying odds they’re making stuff up.

        • Given that Christopher Tolkien refuses to sell any further film rights, the only ones that Amazon can exploit are those from the existing deals. Unless they plan to remake the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, that’s essentially the appendices and nothing more.

          I don’t think that’s enough material (or at least enough interconnected material) to base a series around, unless all they’re doing is a bunch of vignettes.

          I think they pretty much HAVE to ‘make stuff up.’

          • Um… the Tale of Years is in the Appendix. The Tales of Aragorn and Arwen are in the Appendix. A ton of history is in the Appendix, even without the Silmarillion and the other books.

            They could make a dozen seasons out of Aragorn’s adventures in Rohan and Gondor as a young soldier.

            • Francesco Nicoletti

              Oh please no. Didn’t The Hobbit movies show just what is wrong with side storys made up by someone other then Tolkien. Just put back the episodic storytelling from the books that the movies removed and you’ll have a fine 3 seasons of television.

              • The Hobbit films were an example of crappy side stories made up. Take something like Man in the High Castle and you’ve got an example of great side stories made up by good writers.

                Amazon did an excellent job with that series. I hope they do as well with this one.

            • Hm. It’s been years since I read them, but what I remember of the Appendices are that there is a lot of tracing of lineage, including one or two sentences explaining why the person listed might be important, and several specific wars and battles mentioned, but most of the events I recall would have been years apart and not connected enough to make a full story — too many missing details (for example: I don’t seem to recall there being any reason given for the Hobbits to get involved in the Battle of Greenfields, and I remember looking specifically for that when going through the appendices).

              I don’t remember enough happening in the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen to build a story of the type LotR fans would enjoy watching, but again it has been YEARS since I read through the appendices.

          • Christopher isn’t the director of the Tolkien Estate anymore. So it is theoretically possible for other rights to be put on sale.

    • Richard Hershberger

      I am a total Tolkien geek. I may or may not watch the Amazon version, but leaks ahead of time won’t have anything to do with this decision. I skipped The Hobbit films, but not because of leaks.

      • You are a wise man.

        • Richard Hershberger

          The writing was on the wall even before the first one came out. The LotR movies cut out vital parts of the book because, we were told, of time constraints. (Mysteriously, there still was time to add stuff like shield surfing.) Then the movies made a boatload of money. Hence the decision to make The Hobbit movie. But this had the opposite problem. The studio wanted to make three movies, because three movies would bring in more revenue than one movie, but the book clearly didn’t have three movies’ worth of material. I knew as soon as they announced there would be three of them that there was going be huge amounts of padding. There was a small chance that this could have been done well, but the odds were never in that direction. Had the word of mouth been good I might have seen them, but nothing I heard about the films suggested this.

          In related news, the Nu Trek films have killed off the last of any sense of generational geek solidarity obligation to watch this stuff.

          • I love the Hobbit movies. Yeah, they should have shortened them to two movies instead of three. But we get a lot of cool battle scenes out of it.

  3. I want a fingerprint scanner for my office.

  4. Can Random House borrow that locked room for George RR Martin? Lock him up until he gets his Song of Fire and Ice series done. I won’t necessarily read it (kind of lost its momentum after a hiatus of 8 years, that and the fact that he liked to kill anyone a reader might sympathize with) but at least I won’t be hearing anything more about it. It’s either that or wait until he croaks and let Brandon Sanderson finish it.
    Come on, Amazon, imprison GRRM in there. You can make a reality show out of it.

    • There are too many story lines for him to actually complete it. It’s made for spin offs.

    • Lock him up until he gets his Song of Fire and Ice series done.

      Now, now. Martin may have done some very naughty things to his readers, but surely he doesn’t deserve life imprisonment!

    • For some reason, I found it hard to believe it’s been eight years since the last book. But holy crap—yup, eight years.

      Checking that fact sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole on Wikipedia, where I stumbled upon this: “As of 2011, Martin was still typing his fiction on a DOS computer with WordStar 4.0 software.”

      I can’t even get my head around that.

      He talked about it with Conan.

  5. There was an official map for the series posted on social media. Mostly it’s a standard map, expanded a bit in the east to include Rhun, but one of the region labels gives a big clue about where the series is probably going. The region most fans know as Rohan is labeled Calenardhon, which is what it was named before Gondor gifted it to the Rohirrim for their aid in war. So we’re firmly in the Second Age here, which is quite interesting and certainly opens up a lot of possibilities.


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