4 pop culture highlights from across the Middle East

Inside ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ – The Most Expensive Show Ever Made

DUBAI: There has never been a more ambitious television series than ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’. The first season, which premiered on Amazon Prime on September 2, cost $465 million – about 10 times the price of the first season of ‘Game of Thrones’ 11 years ago – with a projected budget of $1 billion. dollars for the planned five. -series of the season as a whole. If any franchise can justify this kind of investment, it’s the world of Middle-earth.

“It shows how universal JRR Tolkien’s stories still are,” Markella Kavenagh, the 21-year-old star of the series (born the same year Peter Jackson’s first ‘Lord of the Rings’ film was released), who plays halfling Nori Brandyfoot, reports Arab News. “These stories highlight the importance of community, drawing strength from vulnerability. Across generations, people see themselves in these stories.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8UAAUAuKNcU

In the world of high fantasy, no story has ever come close to the global impact of JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” (We class “Harry Potter” in low fantasy.) While wizards, dwarves and elves existed in tales long before the English author began creating his own Elvish language and expanding it into a story sprawling in 1914, it was the publication of his masterful trilogy in 1954 that cemented them in the cultural imagination and changed the genre forever – an influence that grew even stronger after its adaptation into three Oscar-winning films at the early 2000s.

“The Lord of the Rings”, in fact, was actually the very end of the immense tale that Tolkien crafted, pieces of which have been published since his death in 1973. The true significance of his classic story of good versus evil spans thousands of years of invented mythology, and no attempt had been made to dramatize tales of when the “rings of power” were made, the dark lord Sauron rose, and humans and elves have united to defeat him – at least until Amazon turned to writers and superfans John D. Payne and Patrick McKay to do what many thought was impossible.

Megan Richards as Poppy Proudfellow and Markella Kavenagh as Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot in “Rings of Power.” (Provided)

“In creating this world, Tolkien always felt like he was discovering something that already existed. For us, it was more about analyzing the clues he left behind, like dinosaur bones in the ground. It was a joyous process of working with Professor Tolkien,” says Payne.

Payne and McKay worked closely with the Tolkien field and a number of Tolkien experts to put all the pieces together so that their narrative was true to what the author intended, and to figure out what needed to be changed. to ensure the multi-generational storyline made sense as a TV show.

“The biggest freedom we’ve taken is to compress the timeline. If you told Tolkien’s story in a documentary style, then the human characters would die every few episodes. With the blessing of the estate, we had to change that to a serialized story,” says Payne.

Writers and showrunners JD Payne, JA Bayona and Patrick McKay on the set of “Rings of Power.” (Provided)

It wasn’t just about mapping out Tolkien’s lore, but extracting that material for stories and characters that could, as McKay puts it, “drive a 50-hour mega-epic,” and find actors who could do the same in this world. justice as the famous cast of the film trilogy once did.

“We have 22 series regulars on the show. For each of them, we knew we had to find a unicorn. First, they had to be a fantastic performer and a master of their craft, and second, they had to have “Middle-earth” within them. We saw hundreds of tapes, we winnowed a few, and then eventually the ones that came up had something really special about them,” says Payne.

Ismael Cruz Córdova as Arondir in “Rings of Power”. (Provided)

For the performers themselves, this process put them on a particularly long and arduous journey towards the project. Ismael Cruz-Córdova, who plays Arondir, became the first person of color to play an elf in the franchise after a seven-month battle, driven by a singular belief that he could do the role justice better than anyone.

Cruz-Córdova auditioned first in New York and then twice in Los Angeles. A few weeks later, he heard the news he dreaded.

“I was filming in South Africa in the desert when I got my first rejection. I was fierce about it. I said, ‘No, I’m going to keep fighting for this thing.’ Somehow my agents managed to (re)put me back in. I made a tape in my tent in the desert, drove to the nearby town to find the Wi- Fi, I sent it and got another response saying no,” says Cruz-Córdova.

“I told my agents that I was going to show up at the creators’ house and convince them, and they said to me, ‘We would like you not to go to prison,'” he continues.

Cruz-Córdova briefly gave up her fight, before receiving an unexpected invitation to New Zealand, where the series was filmed. There he took a screen test with five other people, pretending his life didn’t depend on this moment, and finally got the part.

“At the end, I was so tired. And since then, I’ve been tired, ”jokes Cruz-Córdova.

With a cast of relative unknowns, Payne and McKay left room for themselves to star in their five-season plan for each character, allowing the actors themselves to help define who these people would become over the course of the story. .

Megan Richards, who plays Poppy Proudfellow – another halfling and best friend of Kavenagh’s character, was an actor whose real-life skills became part of the show’s narrative.

“We knew Megan was an incredibly talented actress, but we learned on set that she was an incredible singer. We thought, ‘How can we take advantage of this?’ So now Poppy sings,” McKay says.

“It’s one of those big moments in the show that we never could have imagined until we started developing it with an artist that you cast the role. It eventually came true for all of the characters at all levels,” adds Payne.

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel and Lloyd Owen as Elendil in “Rings of Power”. (Provided)

Each performer had a different process for determining their character. “I really found Poppy through her movements,” Richards says. “Our movement director gave me the direction to walk like a five-year-old. It was the basis of all his movements, and then I was able to integrate personality traits and personal things from there, just discovering how she walked.

In the end, while many outsiders may focus on “The Rings of Power’s gargantuan budget,” for those who did, it was a true labor of love, and the team is thrilled to see the world react.

Helen D. Jessen