'Lord of the Rings' Amazon Show Suffers Another Major Setback

Amazon Prime Video's upcoming Lord of the Rings series has suffered another setback this week: the loss of an important cast member. Australian actor Tom Budge had in the main cast of the series, which has been in production for over a year now. On Sunday, Budge announced on Instagram that he had "departed" the series.

"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 explained, alongside a video of Johnny Cash singing "Ring of Fire." The details of Budge's character are still unknown, but he wrote that he had been "trying something that I believed was new, exciting and beautiful" with the role, and that the creative team had "encouraged" him. Sadly, when the first episode was finished, the studio apparently disapproved.

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"I sincerely thank the extraordinary cast and crew for their love, support and friendship over what has been a very difficult and unusual experience," Budge continued. "Alas, some things just cannot be. Destiny my mother, I thank thee."

Fans are dying for more details on Budge's performance, his departure from the show, and of course, the show itself. The series is shrouded in mystery, with only a few details about how it fits into J.R.R. Tolkien's immense fictional world available.

The new show is set in Tolkien's Middle-earth, but thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. While those more well-known books take place in what Tolkien called "the Third Age," this series will be set in "the Second Age." A huge ensemble cast has been announced, but their roles are still unclear. They are expected to play a mixture of humans, halflings, dwarves, elves and other magical creatures who will "confront the re-emergence of evil in Middle-earth."

Based on that, fans have been able to extrapolate or guess some aspects of the narrative the new show will follow. Tolkien wrote about the Second Age broadly in other books and short stories — particularly The Silmarillion. The Second Age is exactly 3,341 years old by his reckoning and included the forging of the magical rings of power, including the One Ring that the later series is concerned with.

A few characters that fans may know from the movies or the other books were alive in the Second Age and could therefore turn up in the show. That includes the elf Elrond — portrayed in the movies by Hugo Weaving, Galadriel — played by Cate Blanchett, the Ringwraiths and a few other minor figures. The Second Age ended when King Isildur (Harry Sinclair) cut the One Ring off of Sauron's finger, as fans saw in the flashback sequence of the first movie. However, whether this or any other links to the main series will show up in the series is a mystery.

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Amazon's Lord of the Rings prequel series resumed filming in September after a long pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. The first eight-episode season is expected to premiere some time this year, but a date has not been set yet.