US-based streaming giant Amazon announced Wednesday its big-budget “Lord of the Rings” series will within months start filming in New Zealand, home to Peter Jackson’s movies of the fantasy epic.
Amazon is reportedly spending US$1 billion-plus on the series as it seeks to emulate the runaway success enjoyed by “Games of Thrones”.
Showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay said the South Pacific nation offered the “primordial beauty” of Middle Earth, the setting for J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of elves, dwarf and hobbits.
“We needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains, that also is a home to world-class sets, studios, and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople,” they said in a statement.
Amazon Studios said pre-production had already begun and shooting would start in Auckland “in the coming months”.
It has already made a multi-season commitment to the series, which will explore storylines set long before the events depicted in Jackson’s films.
The Kiwi director’s Rings trilogy and the equally popular, but less critically acclaimed three-parter “The Hobbit”, sparked a tourism boom in New Zealand.
Millions of visitors have flocked to locations used in the movies, helping tourism overtake dairy exports as the country’s biggest earner.
The movies also transformed New Zealand’s film sector from a cottage industry into a world leader, particularly in digital special effects.
“It’s great to see New Zealand’s association with Middle Earth is continuing,” Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford said.
Invest Auckland said the Amazon production would bring an “immense economic boost and job opportunities”.
New Zealanders have also embraced Middle Earth as part of the country’s cultural identity, even now — five years after the last Hobbit movie’s release — giant models of dragons and wizards decorate Wellington airport.
Jackson has no direct involvement in the series, although last year he wished its makers well and said he was available for consultation if needed.
Amazon has previously confirmed that “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” director J.A. Bayona will helm the first two episodes of the series.
‘Not true’: Fox News calls out Trump for lying about keeping US soldiers out of harm’s way
As the U.S. military grapples with the logistics of a quick withdrawal from the northern part of Syria, President Donald Trump drew criticism for abandoning the Kurds and endangering U.S. troops. There are also reports that the army's departure has resulted in members of ISIS escaping from prison.
On Wednesday, Trump defended his decision, insisting that U.S. soldiers were not in danger. "Our soldiers are not in harm's way," he said. “That has nothing to do with us,” he added, about the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds at the Turkish-Syrian border.
But top military officials told Fox News that this was not true. "Not true, according to top US military commanders who tell Fox this is a complicated, deliberate phased withdrawal with a lot of inherent risk," Jennifer Griffin, National Security correspondent for Fox News, wrote on Twitter. "Already US warplanes had to warn approaching foreign troops with a show of force."
‘Worse than Obama’: Lindsey Graham has full-blown freak out over Trump’s latest Syria statements
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Wednesday had a full-blown freak out after President Donald Trump publicly said that the Turkish slaughter of the Kurds in northern Syria was not America's problem.
Writing on Twitter, the senator had his harshest condemnation yet of the president's decision to abruptly pull American troops out of Syria while giving Turkey a green light to invade the area.
"I hope President Trump is right in his belief that Turkeys invasion of Syria is of no concern to us, abandoning the Kurds won’t come back to haunt us, ISIS won’t reemerge, and Iran will not fill the vacuum created by this decision," Graham wrote. "However, I firmly believe that if President Trump continues to make such statements this will be a disaster worse than President Obama’s decision to leave Iraq."
Trump spirals into deranged conspiracy theory when asked about Giuliani: ‘I want to see the server’
President Donald Trump on Wednesday blurted out a nearly incomprehensible conspiracy theory about the 2016 election.
During an Oval Office meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, reporters asked Trump if he expected former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify to the House impeachment inquiry.
Trump sidestepped the question and launched into a rant about "corruption" in the 2016 election.
"Giuliani was seeking out corruption in the 2016 election," the president said. "There was tremendous corruption in that 2016 election. It was disgraceful what happened and what happened to me and what happened to the Republicans."