It is hard to imagine what the great director would have made of Amazon's $1 billion gamble on "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power," a 50-hour television series based on the dry historical footnotes published at the end of book three.The show, out Friday globally on Prime Video, aims to tap into the huge and enduring appeal of books still regularly voted the world's best-loved novels of all time, as well as Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning film adaptations.It is central to Amazon's bid to stand out in the "streaming wars" with Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max — whose own "Game of Thrones" prequel just launched — and is bankrolled by multi-billionaire founder Jeff Bezos, a Tolkien mega-fan. But populated by heroes and villains who are barely — if at all — referenced in Tolkien's trilogy and its "Appendices" of fictional mythology, and featuring a largely unknown cast and creators, there is no doubting the scale of the gamble."It is quite nerve wracking — we're building something from the ground up that's never been seen before," said Sophia Nomvete, who plays Princess Disa, the first female and first Black dwarf depicted on screen in Tolkien's world."There's definitely a few nerves. We want to get it right," she told AFP at the Comic-Con fan event last month."The Rings of Power" is set in Tolkien's "Second Age" — a period of history in his fictional Middle Earth world thousands of years before the events of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings."So while a handful of characters from Jackson's films reappear in Amazon's show — mostly younger versions of elves such as Galadriel and Elrond, who are of course immortal — there is no Frodo, Gollum or Aragorn in sight.Most characters from Tolkien lore are appearing on screen for the first time, and some have even been created entirely from scratch for the show."Tolkien hasn't really written much about who he is as a person," said Maxim Baldry, whose character Isildur was briefly seen fighting the evil lord Sauron in a flashback at the start of Jackson's trilogy.Also read: From Amazon to Netflix: Here's how much big tech companies earn per minuteHere, Baldry plays a younger version of the tragic hero, struggling with the death of his mother, over-bearing pressure from his father, and a romantic yearning for adventure."What a gift, firstly, to explore someone's beginnings, finding their true colors, understanding who they really are," said Baldry.He added: "Season one is purely about setting up characters and introducing new characters to the family... fleshing out a pretty skeletal world that Tolkien just created in the Second Age."
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