This weekend, Amazon revealed the writers they hired to create their Lord of the Rings streaming series. Viewers still have not seen any credited work by JD Payne and Patrick McKay, so a lot of fans are still wondering just who are these guys who are going to take us back to Middle Earth?
Rotten Tomatoes did some research on the writing team of Payne and McKay. Through the latest announcements and some previous interviews with the writers, here is everything we found out the two men charged with brining Middle Earth to streaming.
Normally when a Network buys a show, they green light a creator’s take; to snag Lord of the Rings, Amazon won the bidding (rumored at $250 million) without any concept in place. Then they interviewed writers and creators to entertain different takes on the franchise. Payne and McKay won.
“It’s such a vast world, there are so many different ways to go with that property,” Head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke (pictured) said. “We had an abundance of enthusiasm in the creator/writer community for the project. So there was a lot of time spent talking about different takes. The next phase is a big development process as they build out this world.”
They’re not only writing the next Star Trek but have been attached to adaptations of Flash Gordon, Godzilla Vs. King Kong, Micronauts, Midas, Goliath, The Deadliest Warrior, and Boilerplate. They also worked on Star Trek: Beyond with Roberto Orci on a script so this will not be their first ride on the Starship Enterprise, although Doug Jung and Simon Pegg ended up finishing Beyond.
Payne and McKay wrote the upcoming Jungle Cruise movie for Dwayne Johnson, based on the Disneyland ride. Now, if they can get a whole movie out of a ride, then the Tolkien trilogy – plus prequel and appendices – should be more than enough source material for a long-running TV series.
Payne gave MormonArtist.com an interview in 2014 to discuss his faith and his screenwriting career. Tolkien is a text often related to the Mormon Church, so perhaps he can bring that angle to the series.
During college Payne served in a mission in Rome. It was there he truly fell in love with telling stories. “While in Italy, in the hours and days and months of interacting incessantly with thousands of people, I became fixated upon the power of story,” McKay told MormonArtist.
Of course, many have cited religious parallels between Tolkien’s work and Mormonism and other religions. Since the show will not be adapted directly from the book, perhaps Payne will have a chance to draw new connections between religion in our world and in the world of Middle Earth, if he chooses to.
According to Amazon’s press release, Payne and McKay met in a high school debate club. The 2014 interview puts their meeting in 1997. That’s two decades of writing and developing together, and by 2014 they had written 15 screenplays together, according to the Payne interview.
“Our worldviews are sometimes contrasting, but always complementary,” Payne told MormonArtist. “Between the two of us, we almost never get stuck, be it in brainstorming, pitching, drafting, revising, or any other part of the process.”
In an interview with TrekCore, McKay detailed more of their high school collaborations. They directed a play and then began wrrting one together. Payne went to Yale for engineering and McKay went to a creative writing grad school in Washington, D.C. but they remained partners.
— TheOneRing.net (@theoneringnet) May 16, 2018
Various sources report that the series will take place before The Fellowship of the Ring, with Tolkien site TheOneRing.net reporting that their sources say it will be about a young Aragorn, Viggo Mortensen’s character in the trilogy.
So, they’ll be called on to write original work – of sorts. Some of the original screenplays the duo have written include The Black List screenplay Escape. Law Zero was also to be an original futuristic sci-fi action movie for Warner Brothers, but it never got made.
In the press release announcing their gig on Lord of the Rings, Payne and McKay said, “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. The rich world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is filled with majesty and heart, wisdom and complexity.”
Now do those sound like guys to follow into Mordor or what?