‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ Changed New Zealand’s Film Industry 

Karl Urban got his start in some small projects in his native New Zealand before landing his first big role in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess.

Urban recently discussed his most iconic roles so far, including Xena: Warrior Princess. The long-running TV series was filmed in New Zealand. It jump-started the country’s notability as a beautiful shooting location for projects, including Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Karl Urban called ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ an ‘incredible learning experience’

Urban played Julius Caesar, Cupid, Mael, and Kor in the Xenaverse for over a dozen episodes. The Boys star told GQ:

“It was the first time that a show of that production value had really been shot in New Zealand. And it really upskilled everybody, not only just the actors but also the crew. And in actual fact, many of the crew were then cherry-picked by Peter Jackson and they went on work on The Lord of the Rings.”

According to IMDb, Xena: Warrior Princess ran for six seasons from 1995 to 2001 as a sequel to Hercules, which starred Kevin Sorbo. Xena chronicled the adventures of a warrior princess, played by Lucy Lawless, who goes on a quest for redemption from her past sins by defending those who can’t defend themselves.

Actress Lucy Lawless during an interview with host Jay Leno in 1997
Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless with Jay Leno in 1997 | Margaret Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Critics hailed the show for its strong female characters. Over two decades later, fans have maintained a cult following. The show remains so popular that an annual convention still occurs in LA, reports Creation Entertainment.

‘Xena’ jump-started many careers in entertainment

Showrunner Sam Raimi was already a fixture in the industry with the Evil Dead movies starring Bruce Campbell. Urban himself took off following his 12 appearances on Xena to land the role of Éomer in Jackon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Ngila Dickson, the costume designer on Xena, reports IMDb, won an Oscar for Best Costume Design for Return of the King when it swept the Academy Awards in 2004, among other honors for her work. 

Richard Taylor, who worked alongside Dickson on Xena and Jackson’s trilogy masterpiece, won five Oscars for his work on The Lord of the Rings and Jackson’s follow-up production, King Kong, for Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup, and also Best Costume Design.

Hollywood owes ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ a depth of gratitude

Xena may have indirectly inspired more than just the team on The Lord of the Rings. Sam Raimi, the showrunner, directed all three Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies after the end of Xena

Without the success of those three Spider-Man movies from 2002 to 2007, which, at the time, were the highest-grossing superhero movies in history, according to LiveAbout, the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe might not have been created. Iron Man didn’t even hit theaters until 2009, two years after the Raimi trilogy.

Who knew? A successful, often-campy show about a young woman’s redemption may have led to some of the biggest box office juggernauts of all time. Hollywood hasn’t been the same since.

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