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How Charlie Chaplin, The Iron Giant, And E.T. Inspired The Stranger In The Rings Of Power

"The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" just wrapped its first season and it's left viewers with many burning questions — especially in regard to the identity of certain characters and the purpose behind some of the show's creative decisions.

The Amazon series, which takes place during the Second Age of Middle-earth, introduces viewers to a younger version of Sauron and delves into an unexpected origin story that J.R.R. Tolkien never envisioned. Creative liberties were taken and then some, but that was always going to be the case since the creators only had Tolkien's appendices and their own imaginations to work from.

Of course, Sauron isn't the only character who spent Season 1 shrouded in mystery. The Stranger (Daniel Weyman) has been causing some buzz, and he remains one of the most interesting characters heading into the second installment. It's been speculated that the Stranger is Gandalf, but the show hasn't confirmed his identity as of this writing. That said, J.D. Payne, who co-created "The Rings of Power," has discussed the mish-mash of influences that informed the mysterious character's creation.

How Charlie Chaplin, the Iron Giant, and E.T. informed The Stranger

Making audiences root for characters who keep their secrets close to the vest is a difficult task for any creator. For "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power," J.D. Payne and his team wanted viewers to care about The Stranger without giving away too much information about his backstory and true identity. To accomplish this, they looked at some iconic people and projects that feature mysterious heroes who are beloved by audiences.

While appearing on Amazon's Official The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Podcast, Payne discussed how Charlie Chapman, "The Iron Giant," and "E.T. the Extra-terrestrial" helped shape the grizzly wizard known as the Stranger. "We talked about Chaplin, and Buster Keaton, and we talked about E.T. and The Iron Giant, these are silent characters who evoke an enormous amount of pathos and empathy and emotion. We aspired to that kind of connection with the Stranger," he said.

Still, that's easier said than done, and Payne didn't take all of the credit for bringing the Stranger to life. The showrunner praised the performers for emboldening their vision, stating that the actors made the character feel "emotional and authentic."