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Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Sets JD Payne, Patrick McKay to Develop Series

The upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series at Amazon is starting to take shape.

The streaming giant announced Saturday that the writing team of JD Payne and Patrick McKay have signed on to develop the series, which will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke made the announcement at the TCA summer press tour.

“The rich world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is filled with majesty and heart, wisdom and complexity,” said Payne and McKay. “We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Amazon to bring it to life anew. We feel like Frodo, setting out from the Shire, with a great responsibility in our care — it is the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.”

Payne and McKay have been working together since meeting on the high school debate team more than two decades ago. Their most recent projects include writing for “Star Trek 4” for Paramount and “Jungle Cruise” for Disney. They have also set up their original 2017 Blacklist drama script “Escape” with Academy Award-nominated producer Mike DeLuca.

They are repped by Verve, Kaplan/Perrone, and Hanson Jacobson.

Variety exclusively reported back in November that a “Lord of the Rings” series was in the works at Amazon, with the streamer announcing a a multi-season production commitment shortly thereafter. The series will be produced by Amazon Studios in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

The three film adaptations of “The Lord of the Rings,” from New Line Cinema and director Peter Jackson, earned a combined gross of nearly $6 billion worldwide. The cast included Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin and Orlando Bloom. The film trilogy also garnered a combined 17 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The development of the “Lord of the Rings” series comes as Amazon is set to pursue a new programming mandate dictated by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The streamer is looking for a “Game of Thrones”-esque genre programming with broad international appeal.

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