Lord of the Rings: Amazon Studios Pushes Back on Reports of Unsafe Set

Amazon, J.D. Payne, and Patrick McKay locking in the final cast for their The Lord of the Rings prequel series wasn't the only news the project made this week- though we're pretty sure it wishes it was. On Friday, the New Zealand Herald published a report claiming that "at least three" stunt workers have been seriously injured during production on the first season. The report went on to allege that two of those injuries required surgery and that neither of those instances was "proactively reported" to New Zealand's workplace health and safety regulator, WorkSafe. Now, Amazon Studios is pushing back on those reports in a statement that was released to the New Zealand Herald and Variety. "Amazon Studios takes the health, physical and emotional welfare of our cast and crew extremely seriously," said an Amazon Studios spokesperson in the release. "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."

Promo screen cap image from The Lord of the Rings series video (Image: Amazon Prime Video)
Promo screen cap image from The Lord of the Rings series video (Image: Amazon Prime Video)

For their part, the NZ Herald cites award-winning stunt person Dayna Grant (Mad Max: Fury Road, Wonder Woman 1984) as one of the examples. In the report, it reads that Grant suffered a head injury while on set in March 2021 that wasn't reported to WorkSafe. The injury would be diagnosed as an 8mm brain aneurysm along with an injury to her upper spine, requiring Grant to need emergency brain surgery. A source close to the Amazon series' production revealed that the incident was determined to be a "mild concussion" at the time of initial treatment and thus, it didn't meet WorkSafe's requirements of being a "notifiable event" in that Grant's condition wasn't one that was considered to be in need of immediate treatment at a hospital as an inpatient.

The source also alleges that Grant wasn't diagnosed with a brain aneurysm until June of this year and had previously been cleared to return to work after the initial incident. In addition, the NZ Herald also referenced stunt performer Elissa Cadwell, who was seriously injured and then paid $500,000 NZD after the incident. Variety was also told by a source that the payment was made to help cover Cadwell's medical care and transition back to home-living.

As for where the series stands in all of this, the source also made the argument to Variety that the Lord of the Rings carries with it more stuntwork than a lot of other series so the possibility for an accident is greater. Reportedly, a risk analysis is run at every stunt site with near misses and accidents logged. The same source also claims that the production has a .068% injury rate, and that number is made up mostly of bruises, sprains, and soft tissue strains.

Amazon Officially Cancels Their Lord Of The Rings Game
Credit: Amazon Game Studios

The new stories will take place prior to J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Fellowship of the Ring" and look to focus on the "Second Age" – a time when the Rings of Power were first revealed. "J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan, it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team. I can't wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story," explained Bayona at the time the news was announced.

Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Daniel Weyman, Maxim Baldry, Lenny Henry, Peter Mullan, Lloyd Owen, Augustus Prew, Peter Tait, Benjamin Walker, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Simon Merrells, Maxim Baldry, Ian Blackburn, Kip Chapman, Anthony Crum, Maxine Cunliffe, Trystan Gravelle, Thusitha Jayasundera, Fabian McCallum, Geoff Morrell, Alex Tarrant, Leon Wadham, Sara Zwangobani, Charles Edwards, Will Fletcher, Amelie Child-Villiers, and Beau Cassidy star.

Amazon's Lord of the Rings series' creative team line-up includes Amazon's ex-genre head Sharon Tal Yguado as well as Lindsey Weber (10 Cloverfield Lane), Bruce Richmond (Game of Thrones), Gene Kelly (Boardwalk Empire), Tal Yguado, writer/executive producer Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad); writer/executive producer Jason Cahill (The Sopranos), writer/executive producer Justin Doble (Stranger Things), consulting producer Stephany Folsom, producer Ron Ames, writer and co-producer Helen Shang, and writing consultant Glenise Mullins. Bayona will executive produce alongside partner Belén Atienza. Payne and McKay are developing the series and serving as showrunners, with Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) serving as a consultant. Bayona is set to direct the first two episodes. Amazon Studios produces, in conjunction with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema.

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About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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