Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings is well on its way to becoming one of the most expensive TV shows of all time, with start-up costs, combined with the budget of the show’s first season (of a proposed five), expected to price out at $465 million. But a new report from The New Zealand Herald, the country’s largest newspaper, suggests that there may be problems on the set of the series, with at least one stunt performer alleging that they were subjected to unsafe practices while filming.
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Specifically, the report notes that three stunt workers on the show have been “seriously” injured during its shoot, including one performer, Elissa Cadwell, who reportedly received a $500,000 payment from Amazon after suffering an on-set injury. (The Herald report takes pains to make it clear that this payment was “reportedly in part to help Cadwell get back home and settled in Australia and was not an admission of guilt by Amazon.”) Additionally, Dayna Grant—a veteran performer whose career stretches back to her days doubling for Lucy Lawless on the set of Xena—suffered, per Deadline, a concussion while filming the show. (Grant is reportedly about to undergo brain surgery to address an aneurysm, although it’s important to note that she worked on multiple projects after Rings, and that there’s no clear link between her current condition and the injury on the show.)
The only stunt performer who went on the record with the Herald about safety concerns, though, was Thomas Kiwi, who previously filmed on several of Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit movies. Kiwi called out the show’s handling of stunts as “so unsafe,” noting that he left the series in March after suffering a rotator cuff injury in the aftermath of a backflip stunt. Kiwi says that his concerns about his rigging for the stunt were glossed over by the show’s staff, and that industry-standard practices, include a meeting with the people who’d be rigging him up for wire work to talk over the stunt, were skipped. “They should be more on to it,” Kiwi said, “Because there’s a lot of shit that’s happening in the stunt department and a lot of unsafe stuff that’s happened. I just left.”
Amazon, for what it’s worth, is adamant that it’s done nothing wrong during the filming of the series—including allegations that it was under-reporting injuries to WorkSafe NZ, the government body overseeing work health and safety in the country. “Amazon Studios takes the health, physical and emotional welfare of our cast and crew extremely seriously,” the company said through a spokesperson. “As a top priority, the production team continues to be in full compliance with the mandated WorkSafe NZ Safety and Security government regulations. Any allegation or report that activities on set are unsafe or outside of regulations are completely inaccurate.”
Lord Of The Rings is expected to aim for a late-2021 premiere date.