‘Rings of Power’ and ‘House of the Dragon’ Competition Is ‘Manufactured by the Media for Headlines,’ Producer Says

House of the Dragon/Rings of Power
HBO; Amazon Studios

The battle for the Iron Throne of streaming is about to begin.

Amazon’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” and HBO’s “House of the Dragon” will be airing simultaneously for six consecutive weeks, which many headlines and social media users have dubbed “the biggest battle in TV history.”

When asked about the competition between the two shows, “Rings of Power” executive producer Lindsey Weber dismissed the idea that these stories are in conflict with each other.

“For us, we don’t feel any of it. It’s totally manufactured by the media for headlines,” Weber said Tuesday night during a “Rings of Power” panel discussion at Film at Lincoln Center. “I’m quite certain that the cast and crew doesn’t feel any of it either. They know how hard it is to make these things.”

“Rings of Power” showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay joined Weber in the Q&A, which was moderated by Vanity Fair reporter Anthony Breznican. McKay echoed Weber and said that these two series are vastly different.

“If you were an archaeologist and a gardener, it might look similar, but they couldn’t possibly be more different,” McKay said. “I think that’s sort of how we feel about the two shows.”

Payne added, “The competition is the pressure we put on ourselves and a competition we have with ourselves to see what we can put out into the world. Hopefully [our series] will bring people together as a sort of cultural conversation. And anyone else working on storytelling, we wish them well.”

With an estimated first season budget of $465 million, “The Rings of Power” is in contention to become the most expensive television series ever made. In comparison, Variety reported back in April that HBO’s “House of the Dragon” cost under $20 million per episode to produce its 10-episode first season.

The reported figure for the eight-episode season of “Rings of Power” was first disclosed in New Zealand government documents published last year. After wrapping up principal photography in August 2021, Amazon Studios announced that production would be relocated from New Zealand to the U.K. for the second season.

Addressing the extensive budget leak, Weber said these reported figures were inflated and contested that Amazon’s investment was well-spent.

“So it’s a lot of money, however, it is far less money than was written about by the New Zealand government. Thank you, New Zealand, for that,” Weber said.

Weber told the audience after a special IMAX screening of the first two episodes, “We feel like it’s money well spent if it’s on the screen, and part of the storytelling that Middle-earth requires. I hope you guys see it up there.”

While the estimated $465 million budget includes startup costs, such as costume props and set pieces that will be used in future seasons, Amazon spent an estimated $250 million to obtain the “Lord of the Rings” global TV rights and presumably tens of millions more on marketing.

“We aimed to make eight hours of a feature tentpole, cinematic, finely crafted experience,” Weber said. “When you look at the budget compared to the budgets of those things, it’s really the length of three tentpole films shot for the price of one.”

The producers revealed that the vast story features 22 lead characters, 118 speaking roles and at least seven unique locations.

“It tells this amazing story of the forging of the Rings of Power, the rise of the dark lord Sauron, the epic story of Númenor and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men,” Payne said. “We started to wade into this material and we felt like this was something that truly could contain all the ingredients of what you needed to feel like if you have a true Middle-earth epic.”

Throughout the panel, the two showrunners expressed that their story is complete in its own right but weaves in familiar elements from “The Lord of the Rings” mythos. When forming the backstory for certain characters, like the series’ main antagonist, Sauron, McKay said that their work referenced J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Legendarium.”

“Sauron is Morgoth’s first lieutenant during the worst of the First Age,” McKay said. “Morgoth is defeated, and Sauron kind of disappears for a couple of 100 years. And Tolkien himself is silent about what he’s up to during this time. So in the Second Age, he can reappear in a way that is hopefully surprising and delightful and coming away in a way that’s least expected.”

Amazon Prime Video will debut the first two episodes of “The Rings of Power” on Sept. 2.

From Variety US