Meet the 'rebellious' heroine and 'fascinating' villain of “Lord of the Rings” anime prequel

Producer Philippa Boyens, director Kenji Kamiyama, and voice actress Gaia Wise preview "The War of the Rohirrim."

The very first film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings were animated, and now the next one will be as well. The recently announced live-action projects are still a long way off, but Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim is coming this year. Directed by Kenji Kamiyama (Blade Runner: Black Lotus), the new anime film tells the story of Helm Hammerhand, the ancient king of Rohan, after whom the fortress of Helm’s Deep is named.

Of course, The War of the Rohirrim will look very different from Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (released in 1978). This is anime, and producer Philippa Boyens (who, along with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, co-wrote the screenplays for Jackson’s live-action Lord of the Rings films) immediately saw the potential of putting this story in that format.

“When they suggested anime, that's when my brain really started whirring,” Boyens tells Entertainment Weekly. “Immediately, the idea of telling this story came to me. They had a number of different ones they were going to pitch me, but I was quite bossy, and I was like, ‘No, I know exactly what this needs.’”

She explains, “I immediately felt that it would work for anime because it's so character-based and also contained within its own world. It speaks to certain things that work really well with Japanese storytelling.”

<p>Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures</p> Héra (voiced by Gaia Wise) in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim'

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Héra (voiced by Gaia Wise) in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim'

The story of Helm Hammerhand (the king of Rohan voiced by Brian Cox in the film) is told briefly in J.R.R. Tolkien’s appendices to The Lord of the Rings, and the epic details excited Kamiyama to take on the challenge of adapting it into a feature-length film.

“This is the story of the most powerful king in Rohan's history, someone who defeated his enemies with his bare fists,” Kamiyama tells EW. “Why did his lineage have to end with him? I think there is a lesson in hubris there and also for a need for responsibility and awareness in their power. We live in an age where, all over the world, we face the reality of war again. What, then, is power? What is the responsibility of those who possess it? It is something they need to think about by thinking together with those who don’t.”

Boyens and screenwriter Phoebe Gittins expanded on Tolkien’s original story. In particular, they wanted to give a certain character her own name.

“In the appendices where the story is drawn from, we get these quite interestingly drawn male characters, and then we get this young female character who is never named — and that was really interesting to me,” Boyens says. “We know Helm has a daughter, and we know that she was central to the conflict that happened. But myself, and especially screenwriter Phoebe Gittins, were drawn to her. We could feel the weight of being that unnamed daughter, which immediately piqued our interest: Who was she? How did she live?”

In The War of the Rohirrim, Helm’s daughter is named Hèra, and she’s voiced by Gaia Wise. The actress says her character bears a stronger resemblance to the heroines of Hayao Miyazaki films like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind than to classic Lord of the Rings heroines like Arwen and Eowyn.

“She would lay down her life for her people,” Wise says. “Comparing her to Arwen and Eowyn, they’re already fully formed women. What I loved about Hèra is she’s fierce, she’s complex, she’s rebellious.”

<p>Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures</p> Wulf (voiced by Luke Pasqualino) in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim'

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Wulf (voiced by Luke Pasqualino) in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim'

Hèra might have her match, though, in the film’s antagonist. Wulf, voiced by Luke Pasqualino, is leading the armies of Dunlendings against Helm’s kingdom.

“We have an exceptionally great antagonist in this story,” Boyens says. “He's been one of my favorite antagonists to have written across all of the films I've worked on.”

Wulf’s strength as a character, according to Boyens, is precisely the fact that he’s not an evil wizard or a dark lord like the more famous villains of The Lord of the Rings. He’s just human, and in some ways, that makes him even more dangerous.

“He speaks so directly to a lot of the crises that we're facing today,” Boyens says. “He’s a really fascinating character and exciting too. You don't know what he's going to do, and some of the choices that he makes are just breathtaking in a good way.”

Get ready to see how it all plays out when The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim hits theaters on Dec. 13.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.