One of the biggest productions to hit the U.K. in years is gearing up to film outside London next spring, Variety can reveal.
Season 2 of Amazon Prime Video’s “Lord of the Rings,” which grabbed international headlines when the streaming player moved locations from New Zealand to the U.K., has set its first filming locations. The move — which was a major upset for the New Zealand production sector — is especially momentous given the U.K relocation marks the first time any of the modern “Lord of the Rings” live-action, on-screen projects have been produced outside of New Zealand, including “The Hobbit” trilogy.
Sources close to production say Bray Film Studios and Bovingdon Airfield will be the initial production facilities used to film the big-budget series. Pre-production is set to begin in the second quarter of 2022.
Based in Maidenhead, to the west of London, Bray Film Studios boasts almost 54,000 square feet and a 183,000-square-foot backlot. “Mamma Mia” and “Rocketman” are among the productions to have used the studio, as well as the series “Bodyguard” and “Dracula.”
Meanwhile, the Bovingdon Airfield, to the north west of London in Hertfordshire, has 60 acres of open land. Movies filmed there include “Justice League” and “Fast and the Furious 6,” while ITV Studios also has a facility on the premises, where entertainment juggernaut “Dancing on Ice” is filmed.
As is expected for such a sprawling production, more filming locations for “Lord of the Rings” will be scouted in time.
Amazon confirmed earlier this year that Season 1 will debut globally on the streamer on Sept. 2, 2022, with episodes rolling out on a weekly basis. The show was picked up for multiple seasons when it was first ordered back in 2017. Filming on Season 1, which is rumored to cost around $450 million (in comparison, the combined budget for Peter Jackson’s three original films was $281 million), wrapped on Aug. 2, though post-production will continue in New Zealand through June 2022.
Amazon is closely guarding plot details around the series, including its official title. All that’s known is that the show takes place during the so-called Second Age, thousands of years prior to the events of both “The Lord of the Rings” books and “The Hobbit.” The series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. Cast members include Sir Lenny Henry, Morfydd Clark, Peter Mullan, Joseph Mawle and Robert Aramayo.
Speaking to Variety as part of an in-depth story on the U.K. production boom, Dan Grabiner, head of originals at Amazon Studios U.K., said: “I think [the move to the U.K.] speaks to the depth of talent here, the reputation, the skills, the infrastructure. It is a large production. To make an operation like that work, you need world class people and world class talents working on it.”
The “Lord of the Rings” shoot is gearing up just as Amazon further embeds in the U.K. production landscape. Tentpole shows such as “Good Omens,” “Anansi Boys,” “Citadel” and “The Power” all film around the U.K. Also calling the U.K. home are forthcoming dramas “The Rig,” “The Devil’s Hour” and “Jungle.”
The “Lord of the Rings” series is led by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay. They are joined by executive producers Lindsey Weber, Callum Greene, J.A. Bayona (who is also a director on the series), Belén Atienza, Justin Doble, Jason Cahill, Gennifer Hutchison, Bruce Richmond, and Sharon Tal Yguado, co-executive producer and director Wayne Che Yip, director Charlotte Brändström, and producer Christopher Newman. Ron Ames is co-producer.
Variety exclusively reported in November 2017 that a “Lord of the Rings” series was in the works at Amazon.
Joe Otterson contributed to this story.