Amazon Studios is denying a report that the set of its upcoming Lord of the Rings series is unsafe and called the claims “completely inaccurate,” Variety reports.
The New Zealand Herald reported on July 2 that at least three stunt performers on Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series had been seriously injured, with one case resulting in a $500,000 payment. The Herald also reported sources on the set saying they don’t feel Amazon is taking their concerns about safety standards seriously.
In March, stuntwoman Dayna Grant suffered a head injury on The Lord of the Rings set, which the Herald says was not reported to WorkSafe — New Zealand’s workplace safety regulatory body. Another injury requiring surgery was reportedly not disclosed to WorkSafe, either.
In a statement to Variety and the Herald, Amazon Studios said that their safety regulations comply with New Zealand’s standards.
“Amazon Studios takes the health, physical and emotional welfare of our cast and crew extremely seriously,” a spokesperson for Amazon Studios says. “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.”
Variety reports that, according to a source close to production, Grant’s injury was recorded as a mild concussion which isn’t a “notifiable event” by WorkSafe’s regulations. WorkSafe classifies a “notifiable event” as an injury requiring a person to be admitted to a hospital for immediate treatment.
NZ Herald reports that Grant was diagnosed with an 8mm brain aneurysm, which the American Association of Neurological Surgeons classifies “should be seriously considered for treatment.”
Variety’s source states that Grant was not diagnosed with the brain aneurysm until June and had been cleared to work on other projects between then.
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Another stunt performer named Elissa Caldwell reportedly suffered an injury in February, which also wasn’t reported to WorkSafe until the Herald reported on it. The injury resulted in Amazon paying Caldwell $500,000 to return home and receive care, but was explicitly not an admission of guilt by Amazon.
Surrounding the whole situation are multiple reports of stunt performers feeling unsafe or unnecessarily pressured by a stunt supervisor.
“He [the senior stunt worker] applies a weird kind of pressure which just makes you feel uncomfortable all the time,” one stunt worker told the Herald. Other examples include one stunt performer leaving production in March after injuring his rotator cuff, saying he was required to perform backflip stunts with an improperly rigged support wire system. Another stunt performer said a colleague tore a ligament, but the injury was not made public, and that “it’s a different league being hushed up” from normal injury rates on film sets.
Despite all this, the head security officer on the production, Willy Heatley, says the injury rate is low across the board.
“We have had 16,200 stuntperson days worked since we started production,” Heatley told the Herald. “That is an incredible amount. And our injury rate across all studios is 0.065 percent. Most of these injuries are common stunt-related sprains, bruises and muscle and soft tissue strains.”
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings project was one of 2020’s most prominent casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, with production delayed early on in March last year. Production has reportedly been so long that not even a primary actor knows when filming for season one will finish.
Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer for IGN.