The Lord of the Rings has been indelibly associated with New Zealand for more than two decades. Kiwi director Peter Jackson made perhaps the greatest tourist advert of all time with his epic trilogy, in which the country was as much a star as any of the actors. The Hobbit movies also filmed there and, up until last week, so did Amazon’s hotly-anticipated TV show.
With the first season in the can, work was set to begin in earnest on the second in early 2022. But Amazon Studios threw a bomb into the New Zealand movie world by announcing that it’s moving production to the U.K. The billion-dollar show has been a lifeline to the New Zealand production community during COVID, and the move has sent shockwaves through the industry.
Worse, Variety has revealed that those involved only discovered they were going to lose their jobs 20 minutes before it was announced in the press. CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission David Strong said:
“It’s a shame and I feel for everyone who has put their hearts into this production. Season two was expected to begin later in 2022, so our role now is to work hard to keep the Kiwi screen sector employed.”
Many suspect that New Zealand’s strict COVID rules are behind the decision. Those arriving in New Zealand face mandatory quarantines and tests in order to prevent the virus spreading. The tactic has successfully stopped the virus (they’ve had just 26 deaths since the pandemic began), but in return, it’s difficult for an international shoot to bring people in and out of the country. It seems somewhat heartless to punish a country for successfully stopping COVID, but then again, this is Amazon.
The show itself will air on Amazon Prime in September 2022 and is set to be the most expensive TV show of all time. Don’t expect Frodo and Aragorn to show up though. The Amazon series is set thousands of years before Peter Jackson’s movies. But given that several characters in The Lord of the Rings are immortal, I wouldn’t rule out some fan favorites making an appearance.
It’ll be interesting to see the difference between seasons one and two, and whether The Lord of the Rings world looks different now that it’s coming back to Tolkien’s homeland.