Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos thanked ‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ showrunners Patrick McKay and John D. Payne at the UK premiere of the Amazon Prime Video series on Tuesday night – for ignoring his notes on the show.
“Every showrunner’s dream – and I mean every showrunner – their dream is to get notes on scripts and early cuts from the founder and executive chairman,” Bezos quipped while introducing the first two episodes of the series.
“They loved that. I need to thank you both for listening whenever it helped but mostly I need to thank you for ignoring me at exactly the right times.”
Bezos also shared that there had been reservations about picking McKay and Payne, who have just a handful of credits between them, to helm the eye-wateringly expensive blockbuster series, saying: “One of the best decisions we made was to bet on this relatively unknown team. Some people even questioned our choice. But we saw something special.
“J.D., Patrick, thank you for taking this on and putting your whole selves into it. Everybody here in this audience, you are all about to see that we made the right choice.”
In a rare speech, the Amazon head told the audience, which included Tokien’s grandson Michael Tolkien, Amazon Studio boss Jennifer Salke, head of television Vernon Sanders, castmembers, press and even some fans dressed in full Middle Earth cosplay, that he himself first became enamoured with the fantasy books as a teenager and that his Tolkien-obsessed son had warned him not to “eff up” the series.
“My grandfather’s the one who introduced me to Tolkien,” said Bezos.
“I fell in love immediately, I was probably 13 or 14 years old. I fell in love with the adventure of course, with the detailed universe, with the feelings of hope and optimism, with the idea that everybody has a role to play. And I’m happy to report that that cycle continues today. My kids have become Tolkien fans as well.”
“In fact one of my boys I think approaches the level of a Tolkien scholar, he knows so much about this universe. And after Amazon got involved in this project, my son came up to me one day, he looked me in the eyes, very sincerely, and he said: ‘Dad, please don’t eff this up’. And he was right. We know that this world is important to so many people, we know it’s a privilege to work inside this world and we know it’s a big responsibility.”
Salke also took the stage before the show screened to thank Bezos, the cast and crew and in particular the Tolkien estate “for their trust and partnership.”
It is understood that Amazon Studios struck a deal directly with the Tolkien estate to license the IP, enabling them to bypass the Saul Zaentz Company, who until last month controlled all the screen rights except for television series more than eight episodes long. The Prime Video series consists of eight episodes.
Also walking the red carpet at the London premiere were castmembers including Sir Lenny Henry, who plays Sadoc Burrows, Morfydd Clark, who plays the elf Galadriel (the younger version of the character played by Cate Blanchett in the Peter Jackson adaptation) and Markella Kavenagh, who plays the adventurous ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot.