Amazon has decided to produce its upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series in the UK from the second season on. Although the first season was filmed in New Zealand, as with Peter Jackson’s movies, Amazon now says pre-production on season two will begin early next year in the UK while season one post-production continues in New Zealand through June.
It’s not clear exactly where the series will be shot. Amazon is shipping the complex sets it built for the first season over to the UK and is currently booking stages for them, according to Deadline. The company films several Prime Video series in the UK already, including Neil Gaiman adaptations Good Omens and Anansi Boys.
The move to the UK won’t be without controversy. Author J.R.R. Tolkien based Middle-earth’s Shire on his experiences living in rural England, but Jackson’s vivid depictions in the movies has made New Zealand’s landscapes just as closely associated with the franchise, and drove significant tourism to the country.
“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,” Amazon Studios VP Vernon Sanders says in a statement. “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 One.”
Deadline reports that New Zealand’s strict handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was a factor in Amazon’s decision. More than half of the cast is British and has reportedly had to stay in New Zealand for around two years because of border restrictions and quarantine rules. With a base in the UK, the cast will be much closer to home, and the producers may also be able to make use of other locations around Europe.
The first season of the Lord of the Rings show, which is set thousands of years before the original books and still doesn’t have a formal title, is set to come to Prime Video on September 2nd next year. This season alone is said to have cost the e-commerce giant $465 million to produce, with Amazon receiving a 20 percent tax credit from the New Zealand government.