Peter Jackson returning to Lord of the Rings with Gollum movie directed by Andy Serkis

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Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
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Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, and Andy Serkis in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, and Andy Serkis in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) Credit: Unknown/Supplied

Lord of the Rings is returning to the big screen and Peter Jackson will shepherd its journey through Middle-earth.

Jackson will produce the movie, Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum, which Andy Serkis will direct.

Serkis is known for providing the motion capture performance for Gollum in the six Jackson movies - the original trilogy and The Hobbit movies - but it will be his first time directing a LOTR project. Serkis has previously directed four features including Venom: Let There Be Carnage.

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Serkis will also portray Gollum again in a story from Jackson’s writing and producing partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyes, who is in development on the script with Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou.

Warner Bros Discovery chief executive David Zaslav said, as reported by Variety, Jackson will be involved in every step of the process on the film slated for release in 2026. There will be two movies as part of this deal.

Andy Serkis in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Andy Serkis’s Gollum will be the focus of a movie slated for release in 2026. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

In a statement, studio heads Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy said, “For over two decades, moviegoers have embraced the Lord of the Rings film trilogy because of the undeniable devotion Peter, Fran and Philippa have shown towards protecting the legacy of Tolkien’s works, and to ensure audiences could experience the incredible world he created in a way that honours his literary vision.”

When Zaslav took over the merged operations of Warner Bros and Discovery, the media executive flagged he would lean more into the value of the studio’s existing franchises.

At a Goldman Sachs conference in September 2023, he said, “One of the other real strengths of Warner Bros is we talk about the great IP that Warner Bros owns. But, for us, the challenge is that our content, our great IP – Harry Potter, DC, Lord of the Rings – that content has been underused.”

Orlando Bloom in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Jackson’s original Lord of the Rings trilogy made almost $US3 billion at the box office. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

He added, “We haven’t done anything with Harry Potter for more than a decade. We haven’t done anything with Lord of the Rings. We think there’s a lot of shareholder value in attaching a 10-year DC, a real plan around DC, bringing Harry Potter back to HBO for 10 consecutive years, and doing multiple movies of Lord of the Rings.

“We need to deploy our best capital, and we need to do it with the best creative people in the world.”

Warner Bros is also in development on a streaming reboot of the original Harry Potter books that is expected to run for a decade. The later books are heavy tomes so may be split across seasons as the final book, Deathly Hallows, was cleaved into two films.

The Harry Potter prequel movies, the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, were slated to be five films but look likely to have ended with just the three already released. The production was beset by off-screen drama involving stars Johnny Depp and Ezra Miller.

It’s no surprise then that Warner Bros has moved ahead with more Lord of the Rings movies. It announced last year it had negotiated a deal to make “multiple” more films.

Jackson’s LOTR movies were massive commercial and critical hits. The original trilogy won 17 Oscars including best picture for The Return of the King and grossed almost $US3 billion at the box office. The Hobbit movies also cleared almost $US3 billion in ticket sales.

Serkis’s comments in the statement suggested New Zealand’s special effects powerhouse, Weta Digital, will be involved in The Hunt for Gollum. Jackson was a co-founder of Weta, which was sold to an American company in 2021 for $1.6 billion.

It’s not clear if the movie will be filmed in New Zealand, which the six Jackson movies did, creating a boon for the local film industry and continues to be an asset to the country’s tourism sector. A movie set experience, Hobbiton, two hours outside of Auckland, was attracting 650,000 visitors a year before Covid.

FILE - In this Dec. 9, 2014 file photo, Peter Jackson arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies" at the Dolby Theatre. Jackson says he is now realizing that Harvey Weinstein's advice to avoid working with Mira Sorvino or Ashley Judd was likely part of a smear campaign against the two actresses. Jackson tells Stuff that he was told in the late 1990s that they were “a nightmare†to work with and thus didn't consider either for his Lord of the Rings films.(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Peter Jackson is onboard as producer. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) Credit: Chris Pizzello/Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

The Kiwi film industry suffered a big loss when the Amazon Prime Lord of the Rings prequel series, The Rings of Power, pulled out of New Zealand after the first season, moving its production to the UK.

The Amazon series, drawn from Tolkien’s appendices to LOTR, cost the studio $US250 million for the rights and another $US465 million on production costs for the first season. It’s the most expensive series ever produced.

The show is set thousands of years before LOTR and covers Middle-earth’s “Second Age” which saw the forging of the rings of power and the rise of the LOTR chief baddie, Sauron. It stars Morfydd Clark as a younger version of Galadriel, the elf played by Cate Blanchett in the Jackson films, Lenny Henry, Benjamin Walker, Nazanin Boniadi and Australian actor Markella Kavenagh.

Amazon made a five-season commitment to the series. The second season of The Rings of Power is scheduled for release this year.

Separately, an anime film from Japanese director Kenji Kamiyama called The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim will be released in cinemas on December 12. The story is set roughly 200 years before the events of The Hobbit and follows a character called Helm Hammerhead, a king of Rohan. Helm is the namesake for the LOTR location Helm’s Deep.

How precious.

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