The idea of Middle-earth being located anywhere outside of New Zealand is almost blasphemous. In a vaguely rationalised decision laced with buzzwords like “studio strategy” and “expanding production footprint”, however, Amazon Prime Video’s highly-anticipated Lord of The Rings series will actually be abandoning the picturesque landscapes of NZ in season 2 in favour of – get this – the United Kingdom. Cue outrage.
While principal photography for Lord of the Rings season 1 has already been accomplished, the JRR Tolkien’s travelling circus is packing ‘er up, and heading out west in the coming year – finding a home alongside some of Amazon’s other tentpole series’ and films; in addition to abandoning the hefty US$114 million (AU$148 million) tax rebate triggered by the company’s even heftier US$500 million (AU$650 million) spend, provided courtesy of the New Zealand treasury.
“We want to thank the people and the government of New Zealand for their hospitality and dedication and for providing The Lord of the Rings series with an incredible place to begin this epic journey,” says Vernon Sanders, VP & Co-Head of Amazon Studios (TV), in an official press statement regarding season 2.
“We are grateful to the New Zealand Film Commission, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Tourism New Zealand, Auckland Unlimited, and others for their tremendous collaboration that supported the New Zealand film sector and the local economy during the production of season 1.”
“As we look to relocate the production to the UK, we do not intend to actively pursue the Season 1 MoU 5% financial uplift with the New Zealand government or preserve the terms around that agreement, however, we respectfully defer to our partners and will remain in close consultation with them around next steps,” says Albert Cheng, COO & Co-Head of Amazon Studios (TV).
Earlier this month, the frontrunner for world’s most expensive TV show confirmed a premiere date of September 2nd of 2022, hitting 240 international territories via Prime Video, eight years since the release of Peter Jackson’s universally panned, closing instalment of The Hobbit trilogy: The Battle of the Five Armies. Although it does appear that the wait will have been worth it.
“As Bilbo says: ‘Now I think I am quite ready to go on another journey,’” says showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay.
“Living and breathing Middle-earth these many months has been the adventure of a lifetime. We cannot wait for fans to have the chance to do so as well.”
“I can’t express enough just how excited we all are to take our global audience on a new and epic journey through Middle-earth,” adds Jennifer Salke, CEO of Amazon Studios.
“Our talented producers, cast, creative, and production teams have worked tirelessly in New Zealand to bring this untold and awe-inspiring vision to life.”
The forthcoming series will depict the “heroic legends” of Middle-earth’s fabled Second Age history for the very first time. Set thousands of years before the events of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, it’ll take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness.
Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters – both familiar and new – as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.
Given the confirmation the story is set during the Second Age, as well as the mention of “the greatest villain” ever conceived by Tolkien, many have safely assumed the rise of Sauron will serve as the show’s main conflict.
Here are some of the more notable names featured in the XL ensemble cast:
- Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones)
- Owain Arthur (The Palace)
- Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland)
- Tom Budge (The Pacific)
- Morfydd Clark (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)
- Ismael Cruz Córdova (The Mandalorian)
- Ema Horvath (The Gallows Act II)
- Markella Kavenagh (Romper Stomper)
- Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones)
- Tyroe Muhafidin (Treasure Maps and Tinned Spaghetti)
- Megan Richards (Wanderlust)
- Dylan Smith (Total Recall)
- Charlie Vickers (Medici)
- Daniel Weyman (Gentleman Jack)