‘The Lord of the Rings’: Amazon and Former Stunt Workers Battle Over Claims of ‘Unsafe’ Practices and Multiple on-Set Injuries

The major streaming services are battling to see which platform can produce the best original content. Amazon Prime Studios has made an impressive move toward that goal with its production of a new Lord of the Rings series. Not much is known about the show, and fans will have to wait a while to satisfy their curiosity. But one troubling fact has come out about the production. Some stunt workers say that what they’re expected to do on set is simply not safe, and there are multiple injuries to back up their claims.

What we know about the ‘Lord of the Rings’ series

Filming has recently wrapped up on the first season of the season, but according to Variety, eager viewers will have to wait more than a year to see it. The premiere episode will be released on Sept. 2, 2022.  The story isn’t about the characters in the beloved trilogy, but it instead takes place thousands of years before those events. 

The cast includes Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Maxim Baldry, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, and Lloyd Owen. Like the movies, the series was filmed in New Zealand. And it hasn’t been cheap to create.

The first season alone has a price tag of $465 million, making it more expensive than the priciest movie ever filmed (which was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides at $379 million). 

Clearly, Amazon has spared no expense on the series. But some people say that they haven’t been so generous when it comes to the safety of their workers. 

Controversy over the stunts

During the filming of the series, multiple stunt workers were hurt. According to Winter is Coming, three people had accidents on the set. Danya Grant, who is an experienced stunt worker, suffered damage to her upper spine and had a serious head injury that resulted in an 8 mm brain aneurysm. 

Another stunt worker, Elissa Cadwell, was also hurt on set. Amazon later paid her $500,000, although the company said that the money was to help her resettle in Australia, and it was not an admission of guilt. Thomas Kiwi had to stop working after he injured his shoulder cuff. He explained that his arm got caught multiple times on a guidewire that was attached to him.

“It’s got the most money and yet the way they run it and do things is so unsafe,” Kiwi said of Amazon. “It’s not good, man, especially with the budget.”

Kiwi and a number of other stunt workers claimed that an unnamed senior stunt supervisor was responsible for the unsafe conditions. 

Amazon’s response

Deadline reports that Amazon stands by the safety precautions that were taken during filming. 

“Amazon Studios takes the health, physical and emotional welfare of our cast and crew extremely seriously,” a spokesperson said. “As a top priority, the production team continues to be in full compliance with the mandated Worksafe New Zealand Safety and Security government regulations. Any allegation or report that activities on set are unsafe or outside of regulations are completely inaccurate.”

Amazon had a Safety Team on set that had 21 full-time and at least six part-time employees. They reportedly worked to ensure that the crew met the standards of both Amazon Studio safety practices and the New Zealand Health and Safety Legislation. 

Hopefully, if the series has a second season, any safety issues will be resolved before production begins. Stunts should look death-defying, but no one wants people to actually be in harm’s way

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