Amazon Prime Video is spending well over $400 million on the first season of its upcoming Lord of the Rings series, which is set during the Second Age of Middle-earth and filming right now in New Zealand. That’s an insane amount of money for any production, be it a movie or a TV show, and is probably only possible from a company like Amazon, which is one of the most profitable organizations in the world.
But while I’m sure the special effects will be spectacular, it doesn’t sound like the studio is spending much money to protect its performers, at least according to a new report by The New Zealand Herald. They’ve learned of at least three stuntpeople who have been seriously injured on set, including:
- Dayna Grant, who’s been doing stunts since the days of Xena: Warrior Princess, suffered a serious head injury. Scans revealed that she had an 8mm brain aneurysm and an upper spinal injury. Amazon didn’t report the injury to WorkSafe NZ, which oversees work safety in the country, because it didn’t meet the required threshold.
- Australian stuntwoman Elissa Cadwell suffered a serious injury in February and was paid $500,000 by Amazon, although that was reportedly given in part to help Cadwell get resettled in Australia and is not an admission of guilt on Amazon’s part. This injury also was not reported to WordSafe.
- Stuntman Thomas Kiwi left the production in March after badly injuring his right shoulder’s rotator cuff in a backflip stunt.
Kiwi actually went on record with the Herald and went into detail about what he sees as the production’s mistakes. “It’s got the most money and yet the way they run it and do things is so unsafe,” he said. “It’s not good, man, especially with the budget.”
During his stunt, Kiwi said that his arm was repeatedly caught on one of the wires attached to him. He singled out the person overseeing the stunt for not following standard safety procedures. “I corrected him [directly] after it happened,” Kiwi said. “The next day … [I] said, ‘this is what you got wrong’. They should be more on to it because there’s a lot of s*** that’s happening in the stunt department and a lot of unsafe stuff that’s happened. I just left.”
"They should have everything on spreadsheet. They should have everything on photos [of the rig setup]. It’s just basic stuff that they should have done. None of this happened. They just chucked me in their harness."
According to the Herald, several workers they singled out a “senior stunt supervisor” for creating “an uneasy environment which has contributed to an unsafe workplace,” although their name does not appear. I assume that’s the same person that Kiwi is talking about.
Amazon denies that its Lord of the Rings set is unsafe
In any case, Amazon maintains that it’s done nothing wrong. “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 NZ Safety and Security government regulations. Any allegation or report that activities on set are unsafe or outside of regulations are completely inaccurate.”
There’s no release date for The Lord of the Rings show yet, but 2022 seems likely, unless things are even worse behind the scenes than we’ve heard and things get out of control. Hopefully, everything gets straightened out before more people are hurt.
h/t The A.V. Club