Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

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Post by Mrs Figg Fri Dec 04, 2020 2:07 pm

so it looks like they are going full on Game of Thrones with lots of Black actors. I am not expecting anything remotely like Peter Jacksons LOTRs, it has the full diversity quota and what the hell ..Lenny freaking Henry, come on, seriously.. Lenny Henry??????. Rolling Eyes Brummy accent? Laughing  not feeling this casting news at all. They have also missed Mongolian and Maori actors. scratch  surely someone will say there were Mongolian people in Middle Earth.
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Fri Dec 04, 2020 4:40 pm

{{ yup so much for the tales being a replacement mythology for northern Europe in pre-history. They appear to have changed the setting to a 70's coca-cola advert! Mad }}


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Post by Mrs Figg Sat Dec 05, 2020 4:39 pm

Its like why can't Northern Europe have its own tales? too much white privilege I guess Rolling Eyes Theres nothing wrong with GoT having multi-cultural peoples, they actually have them in the books, but LOTRs is not multi cultural, its multi-species.
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Post by malickfan Sun Dec 06, 2020 7:57 pm

I've not really been paying too much attention to the news/updates about this series but the casting update is an interesting one, announcing 20 new cast members at once? Guess Amazon is feeling pretty confident.

Last I read they had shot the pilot episode and were pausing production to get a rough cut together before moving further into production, sounds like they must be feeling pretty confident if major announcements like this are coming out.

I never watched Game Of Thrones, but that was an assemble cast, few of the character had major roles in each and every series, I'm guessing some of the names announced will be guest characters etc.

As for the casting of minority actors in this series, I don't find it surprising in the wake of the 'metoo' black lives matter, oscarsowhite controveries etc, Amazon are putting a huge amount of money into this series and they will want it to reach the broadest range of people possible (I seem to recall reading the BBC has in recent years inacted changes requiring or at least strongly advising drama series to have at least a certain percentage of roles (both in front/behind the camera) set aside especially for minority groups as a way to increase diversity etc...something Lenny Henry was known to be heavily pushing for himself...dunno if New Zealand has also passed similar legislation), it's a fantasy series so real life demographic history will play no part in their decisions, and if the best actor for a role comes from a certain background why not cast them? Lenny Henry is a great actor (as is Peter Mullan-he was almost cast as Balin in the Hobbit films apparently)

As it seems the series will be exploring Numenor and the 2nd age it will essentially be fan fiction anyway so I don't see the point in getting too worked up about it clashing with canon-the source material in LOTR they can reference amounts to little more than a few pages, though if they have also negotiated the rights to material from The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-Earth (maybe even unpublished material or the upcoming book The Nature Of Middle-earth) there's some very interesting writing relating to Numenor they could reference or adapt:

http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Tal-Elmar_(chapter)

http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Aldarion_and_Erendis:_The_Mariner%27s_Wife

But if they are going to be making up most of the narrative as they go along, might as well go the whole way and do whatever they want with the casting.

If the series is exploring Numenor I suppose you could make the argument that as a seafaring colonising empire founded by a mixture of several tribes of men they could have an ethnically diverse population, yes Tolkien most likely wasn't imagining Middle-earth to be ethnically diverse*, but Numenor (though we do know Gondor was to a certain degree-the various settlements in Umbar, Langstrand etc) could concievebly be one of the few major places in Middle-earth to be so (unlike say casting a Black actor as a Noldorian Elvish lord etc, IIRC it's explicitly stated in the H.O.M.E that all the inital 144 elves were fair skinned, the difference between the 'tribes' they later divided into, The Noldor, Vanyar etc being relatively minor in terms of apperance).

*As of the 2011 census The United Kingdom is roughly 87% White British, those percentages skewed heavily by London and other major English cities, the other three home nations in the union were all over 96% White British, and this is after decades of mass immigration. It's easy to forget that when Tolkien was writing these stories in the 1930's-40's it was very very different picture, in 1948 there were estimated to be between 20-50,000 non-white people in the entire UK, almost all of whom lived in a few major cities (London, Cardiff, South Shields, Liverpool etc).

Even as a South African born and well travelled Oxford Professor, Tolkien probably wasn't exposed to many people from ethnic minority backgrounds, he was writing stories drawing on his own experiences and influences in a very monoculture country...there's a part of me that can't help but wonder if making the cast of this TV series more ethnically diverse will only end up stirring up controversy about the abscence of such minority characters in the original books and lead to Tolkien being denounced as a racist and being judged from a modern day perspective etc Rolling Eyes Neutral Suspect scratch


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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Dec 06, 2020 8:35 pm

{{ In Scotland at the last census the back population was 0.7%, asians made up 3% which explains why every corner shop you go into has an asian behind the counter! (in my own town almost every small shop is asian run, excusing the pun they seemed to have cornered the market in corner shops here), which is why when classic fan favourite Scottish sitcom Still Game cast their corner shop owner hes non-white. Its actually true its the most likely place you will find someone non-white in this country!

Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety - Page 37 Ya-jakey-bastard

You are right about the BBC having quotas but frankly its ridiculous, as you have non-white actors in blatantly white roles, such as the black actress who portrayed Queen Margaret in the Hollow Crown series- nothing wrong with her acting but for me was a huge hit to credibility and believability that she was supposed to be Queen Margaret, a real historical figure who was most certainly white. We even have portraits (can you imagine the outcry at casting a white actor to play a historic black person?) it wouldnt have been a problem if it had been set contemporary, but its not it was set in the historic time period.
It also potentially leads to the ludicrous situation that if the BBC make a drama set in Scotland they have to cast a higher percentage of minority in roles than actually have ever existed here, it gets even more ridiculous when it set in the past. Historical accuracy is out of the window.
One of the places this is currently apparent in BBC drama is Doctor Who, where even most of the background and incidental characters are non-white when they return to earth, and they return to Sheffield which at the last census had asians making up less than 4% and blacks 3.6% but anyone not familar with reality watching the show would assume it was as mulitcultural as London.
What we are seeing is a drive for representation that contravenes reality and for me often therefore credibility.

When it comes to Tolkien he was writing about northern Europe in a forgotten age. Now I defended, and still will the one or two black faces in PJ's TH who are in the crowd scenes at Dale, on the basis it was a major trading hub which at its, and Gondors peak of control, went right down through Gondor into Umbar and beyond, so that the occasional trader from far flung regions would have made it so far north was not beyond imagining or credibility, same goes for Gondor where given the occasionally close releationship between them and Harad it makes sense there would be mixed race and a few black characters there.
Modern Italy, which is roughly where Gondor would be (Tolkien in one of his letters refers to taking a trip to Gondor when he goes to Venice) has less black population than the UK or France however, so its not a guarantee that closeness and being further south equates to a larger immigrant population, but its at least more justified narratively.

So should there be say black and asian elves? In my view no because of how elves were created, pretty much in one geographical region, men seem to have been 'woken' in a multitude of places at once and were much more diverse from the off,  so if they set a lot of their story in Gondor, and deal with the Harad years then yes there should obviously be black people in it, as they are from a north African region, which Harad is. But if they centre their tale around the north of ME then no, there should be vastly majority white.
However Id be just as annoyed to see a bunch of white actors playing the Haradrim, and no doubt it would cause outrage, but making a bunch of white north europeans into black people is apparently just fine.

As to Tolkien accused of racism, he often already is through many misunderstandings. I was reading a piece just the other day from someone of eastern descent who accused Tolkien of putting bad guys in the east as a sign of his racism, showing his own ignorance, as Tolkien actualy addressed this in another letter where he said that in the norse myths he took inspiration from the bad guy was always located in the cold north, which is why Morgoth and Angband was located in the north of ME, but after the reshaping of the world those lands were physically gone so it was simple practical geographic necessity that the bad guys were based in the east, as far from the descendents of Numenor as possible whilst staying close enough to keep an eye on and eventually try to conquer. Race had nothing at all to do with the choice. Geography and politics did.

Any fair reading of the history of Gondor can see that Tolkien makes no racial slurs or claims against the people of Harad, nor does he accuse them of all being inherently evil (in Tolkiens world view nothing is inherently evil, not even Sauron) they have a long and often complex history with white Gondor, and they are also at times imperial rivals. Their allegiance with Sauron Tolkien calls a seduction, one of lies and untruths, which is no different than what Sauron did to the white Numeroreans.
Whilst Tolkien was inventing a history, he was also basing it off how the real thing works, and that has shown that there is often periods of interwoven cultures and often periods of seperation and strife between them. Especially neighbouring ones. That is not racism its reality as our history shows us. }}

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Post by malickfan Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:07 pm

Agreed on all counts Petty Thumbs Up

I'm all for more representation of minority groups (and in a fantasy series such as this real world demographic hsitory shouldn't really be relevant i.m.o-the TV series is going to diverge so much from Tolkien's writing I don't particularly care about how faithful it is on matters of plot casting design etc- whilst I doubt I'll even watch it tbh..as they are making most of it up I kinda hope they diverge even further from the books and make it stand alone and be judged on its own strengths, rather than compared to Tolkien's middle class early 20th century worldview, or constantly running in the shadow of the PJ films), but I somtimes think the BBC's approach isn't the right way to go about it, rather than casting historically white roles colour blindly and falsely interserting minority actors into real world history (which in some ways can make it feel like they are only being cast to tick a box) I wish they would more money and resources into developing more leading roles especially for minority actors.

As small as the black/asian population in the UK was prior to the 1950's they did have a prescene and many fascinating stories haven't been told yet. E.g. I was recently reading about several black British-born servicemen who landed in France on D-Day, whose stories aren't widely known about:

 https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/defence/untold-story-first-black-paratrooper-land-d-day-who-was-portsmouth-will-be-revealed-new-film-987293

https://www.pegasusarchive.org/normandy/sidney_cornell.htm

(I live near Portsmouth and had never heard about this before)

https://www.stokemuseums.org.uk/pmag/personal-stories-of-the-second-world-war-part-1/

http://ww2talk.com/index.php?threads/black-british-soldiers.36137/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-50269303

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/leading-aircraftwoman-waaf-and-one-first-black-women-join-british-armed-forces-10158515.html

A close friend of my parents is the daughter of a black man born in South Africa in the 1870's, he immigrated to England around 1900 and died in the 1950's, often wondered what kinds of stories he had to tell, his daughter has the strongest Hampshire accent I've ever encountered and she's lived round here her entire life.

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Post by Mrs Figg Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:14 pm

Queen Margaret being a Black actress took me out of the story because it was such an anomaly, every time I saw her I saw diversity quota instead of her obviously good acting. Same with Black people in Dale, you knew they were just there because some people had complained about there being no Black people in a Northern European Nordic/Celtic tale, which is about as ridiculous as watching a Vikings film and demanding Black Vikings. I hope in the future things are not shoe-horned in to stop offending a minority and stories become more organic and authentic like Steve McQueen's Small Axe.


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Post by malickfan Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:17 pm

Getting back to the main topic of this thread...weren't they supposed to also be filming parts of it in Scotland? I seem to recall they did some location scouting there? (whether than was a backup incase New Zealand fell through, or something more specific I don't know) It's a moot point with the Covid siutation going on, but it would have been interesting...

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:18 pm

{{ yeah agreed Malick, there is no shortage of good real history featuring non-white Brits that could make excellent dramas without feeling like a unrealistic box-ticking exercise or that they are downplaying or shoving whiteness out the door as if its inherently a bad thing in itself. I also think the BBC should coproduce more dramas with other countries the UK has historical ties to, so we can see more diversive drama set in believable locations made by and starring people from those places.

As faras I know Malick they dropped Scotland as a location when they decided to do it all in NZ again. A mistake in my view. }}

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Post by malickfan Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:20 pm

On the plus side, shooting in New Zealand again will give us anothe few years worth of debates about the grass being the wrong color or the tree being too long study Nod

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:27 pm

{{ The trees are too thin that is true Nod - that one though they at least noticed as they had prop trees of much wider girth to place about to try to disguise the fact. But they couldnt disguise the grass, nor the lighting being all wrong for a journey south of such length- the ligh tin the north should be noticably different from the light in Gondor, the UK does not get the same type of lighting as Italy! - which is why artists are always going south to capture the light. But beyond nitpicking I think had they shot at appropriate latitudes it would have subsconciously greatly added to the sense of an epic journey thorugh varying regions- Gondor should not only have 'Italian light' but fauna, vineyards and the like too, as Tolkien describes, all of which you get for free if you shoot in the appropriate places. In the films Gondor bare, stark and looks no different from the northern landscapes we see. }}

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Post by Forest Shepherd Tue Dec 08, 2020 5:26 am

I'm excited by the interesting faces in this new batch of cast. I like to mentally sort them into Elf and Dwarf and Man categories. Razz

I don't think the showrunners need tailor the show much to suit vocal activism from the last few years. It is a kind of genre that would gain but little and lose much by a heavy-handed approach to casting. I'm of the hopeful mind that certain facets of Middle-earth will remain intact: Elves and Hobbits and Dwarves and Dunedain looking more or less northern European. But if we are to see a variety of Men from those groups further afield to the south and east, then that could be quite interesting.
I have a suspicion that things will not quite play out as I would like them to, and that we will get elves like those in the recent Witcher series, but I also do not wish to churlishly leap to any conclusions.

I do not understand why we must transform these established worlds into one that matches up with some of these modern standards of racial diversity. Doing so is rarely a case of wanting to get it "right": it is so that everyone can enjoy how evolved the showrunners are in their awareness of Important Social Issues. I was watching a recent film about Shakespeare in his old age back in his sleepy home-town, and a very African looking couple featured in several of the (small) crowd scenes. This struck me as, well... an preposterous invention, but I'm sure there is such-and-such a text somewhere that someone found that supports the idea that in Shakespeare's hometown there would just happen to be a couple living there of direct African descent.

Anywho, what was I saying... Oh right, to call back to another movie: I was hardly put off or horrified by the lack of diversity amongst the guerrillas in Beasts of No Nation. If a film like that can be so bold as to present a vision of a world simply as it is, and no one complains, then I do not see why we cannot simply have a Middle-earth that contains English-looking fantasy races. And oh yeah there are some Moorish-looking fellows and such-like down on the edges of the map.

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Post by Mrs Figg Tue Dec 08, 2020 5:03 pm

I have a feeling that diversity quotas are going to date a film/tv show just as hair-dos date a film to a specific period. In a couple of years its going to look odd. Because its not organic, its a shoehorn.
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Post by malickfan Wed Dec 09, 2020 8:27 pm

At least with this series it's fantasy and more or less completely invented by the scriptwriters, it's not canon and only an intrepretation of the books, they have the right to do whatever they want with the story, and the viewer retains the right not to enjoy it if its not to our liking, I doubt I'm going to watch this series anyway. Just hope they do something interesting and worthwhile rather than living in the shadow of Jackson's films all season.

Were this say a biographical film of Tolkien and casting real life roles with actors of a completely different ethnic/racial group I'd be more opposed-that would be distorting the truth and making needless changes for no reason other than to tick a box.

Similarly I'm rather baffled some try to apply current day poltical and cultural norms to Tolkien's work, a devout middle class roman catholic and Oxford schola born in 1892 is naturally not going to have the same views as people today, and he shouldn't be judged as such for simply being a man of his time and enviroment.

Whilst it is arguably true many ethnic groups are underepresented in the creative arts, or often relagated to stereotyped roles, I don't think simply casting them in white roles is really doing any favours for anyone, we need to hear and see more stories told by these undereprented groups themselves, there's lots of great untold stories there, such as:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Fanque

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randolph_Turpin


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Well, that was worth the wait wasn't it  Suspect


I think what comes out of a pig's rear end is more akin to what Peejers has given us-Azriel 20/9/2014
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sat Dec 19, 2020 11:29 am


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Post by Mrs Figg Sat Dec 19, 2020 1:45 pm

Got to agree with everything he says, Identity Politics is destroying art. He was right, "what would Tolkien do" has to be the number one consideration. But they are listening to the gimp who wrote that blog.
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Post by halfwise Sat Dec 19, 2020 1:56 pm

Bad Robot joined production? That's it, it's over.

The rest of it definitely made me laugh. " 'There isn't any LBGT representation.' I'll scroll right past that one. "

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Post by halfwise Sat Dec 19, 2020 3:16 pm

I may back off from that: Bad Robot also backed HBO's Westworld series, which I'm a big fan of. If their job is to ensure high production values while keeping their fingers out of script and direction, then it could work.

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Post by Mrs Figg Sat Dec 19, 2020 5:01 pm

what's up with Bad Robot? the last production of theirs that I remember is 'Lost' but more recent stuff has passed me by. Were they involved with The Hobbit? in that case I totally get it.
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Post by halfwise Sat Dec 19, 2020 5:20 pm

the problem with Bad Robot is it's basically JJ Abrams. Slickness vs substance.

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Post by Forest Shepherd Sun Dec 20, 2020 5:43 pm

The thumbnail and title are clickbait, and the guy in the video is really only responding to that one article, not anything official from the production beyond casting announcements.
But I did get a great chuckle out of the point concerning Sam being Frodo's servant, lol. "Yeah, he is."

This new show may well confirm these suspicions, but it also may not! Let us wait and see and not fall into the trap of throwing the project right out because it contains some black actors and actresses. That would be (nearly) as simple-minded as judging the trilogy for its lack of black actors!

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Dec 20, 2020 5:53 pm

{{As I mentioned prior for me it all depends on what stories they cover and where they are set. If they involve the Haradrim then obviously you need black actors, they are effectively north Africans. But if its just about making all the northern European races into multicultural ones then that is just virtue signalling and undermines the world building and setting. }}

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Post by Mrs Figg Sun Dec 20, 2020 6:03 pm

"what would Tolkien do" well Tolkien wasn't under pressure to take a Northern European story, and English in particular, and turn it African. It simply wasn't about Africa, or Afro-American, Asian or Middle Eastern. They have their own stories, I wouldn't expect a white person from Manchester to feature in the Mahabharata and if you did see a white person from Manchester in that story you might think it discordant and annoying and wonder what the heck is going on. You wouldn't see an Welshman in stories about the Greek myths, or Scottish people in Maori folktales. Every race and culture has its own peoples and its own stories, and it is pretty insulting that the Celts/Anglo Saxons are not allowed to have theirs because of 'pressure'.
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Post by halfwise Sun Dec 20, 2020 6:14 pm

If they cast black actors just for the Haradrim and make it an interesting and complex culture then they should be fine; but they'll be in a pickle if they do racial casting and make cartoon characters out of it. Tolkien only had one paragraph to save him from racial characterization: it was when the slain Haradrim soldier tumbled nearly at Sam's feet, who wondered where he came from and if he had family.

I think it likely they'll take the path of a multifaceted culture and preserve racial casting. There were too many writers threshing things out to fall on either side of messing up the racial question. Most likely the question of race came up and they decided there had to be a Southron storyline to address it. Whether they do a good job with it is another question, but I don't think they'll allow it to fall into Xena/Witcher unreal silliness. Too much money being thrown at it to make simple mistakes (but then again, look what happened to Star Wars).

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Dec 20, 2020 6:25 pm

{{ I'd disagree somewhat there Halfy, if you take all Tolkiens writing on Gondor and the south there is a comlex history there including intermarriage, politics and cultural exchanges and differences. At no point does Tolkien make the southern races 'primitive' or 'simple' or even just barbaric. They have a culture, civilisation, cities and a large well furnished naval fleet and for long periods there is trade and commerce between the two, goods from as far north as Dale and the Misty Mountains found their way right down to Harad, and vice versa.
The Haradrim are seduced by Saurons lies in the War of the Ring and at various points in history, but so too are the white Numenoreans and to a greater degree, so too are the Easterling tribes, and in Tolkiens later writings he has the Blue Wizards being the reason they were not far more corrupted indicating there was a mix of views in the East too towards Sauron and the War.
On top of all that is Tolkiens fundemental view that nothing is totally evil or is evil in the beginning. People and even races can temporarily Fall, but they are never irredemable and never evil just by nature.
The simplisitc and often touted view that all the bad guys are foreigners is simply wrong. And it would be a mistake for the film makers to fall into that trap, as much as it would be a mistake to think that multicultural hobbits and northern men would redress a perceived imbalance that never existed in the first place. }}

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