Amazon Prime’s effort to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium to life on the small screen (in a series still tentatively titled The Lord Of The Rings, after Tolkien’s most well-known work) has been beset with obstacles and setbacks from the very start: from the battle with Netflix for the rights back in 2017, to the long and arduous process of actually getting cameras rolling in New Zealand, only to have COVID-19 lockdowns go into effect a month later, resulting in a string of delays. Along the way, they’ve suffered accidents, stirred up controversy, and they’ve even had one of their lead actors drop out due to scheduling conflicts (luckily, before the series started filming).
And today, another has done so…only this time, in the middle of filming season one, and not for something as harmless or as easy to brush aside as a simple scheduling conflict. Tom Budge, who was among the first official wave of actors cast in The Lord Of The Rings back in January of last year, has today revealed on his Instagram that he is no longer a part of the series, and will not be returning – and his reasoning is a little more personal.
“After recently seeing the first episodes shot over the last year Amazon has decided to go in another direction with the character I was portraying…,” Budge wrote. “I must thank the creative team for their encouragement towards trying something that I believed was new, exciting and beautiful. And I sincerely thank the extraordinary cast and crew for their love, support and friendship over what has been a very difficult and unusual experience. Alas, some things just cannot be.”
We still don’t know which character Budge was intended to play, or how large his role was (large enough at least to warrant an argument over creative differences), which makes it hard to either express strong feelings about this news or say anything for certain about what went down behind the scenes. My best guess is that Budge’s role was changed dramatically in the editing room, and/or that his role was decreased. Budge’s language is vague enough that he might have left voluntarily, he might have been fired…we simply don’t know. But his departure makes one thing obvious: Amazon will need to recast his character urgently, and presumably refilm all the scenes Budge had already shot. And that’s going to mean more delays, and…yeah, you know the drill by now.
Obviously I wish Budge all the best, I’m deeply sorry for him, and I hope this is simply a case of opinions clashing, not an indicator of any toxicity behind the scenes. There’s been discussion on Twitter about what Budge described as the “difficult and unusual” filming experience, though he might just be referring to the lockdowns, delays, and new safety guidelines implemented on set, as well as the fact that very few of The Lord Of The Rings‘ cast have been able to leave New Zealand in the last year. But because I already know certain sites will jump on this news and wave it around as proof that The Lord Of The Rings is doomed or that the showrunners are disrespecting Tolkien, I think it’s important we try not to jump to conclusions just yet: there’s nothing here to say that Budge’s creative differences with Amazon had anything to do with a debate over fidelity to Tolkien, still less to say that Budge would have been on Tolkien’s side in that hypothetical debate. That may very well be the case, and if so it would certainly be disheartening, but it’s too early to determine that when we still don’t even know who Budge would have played!
But what do you think? What are your feelings on The Lord Of The Rings following this news? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!