Despite its record-breaking reported budget of $465 million (£399 million), producers on the first season of fantasy TV series The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power wanted to axe some scenes because they were too expensive, claimed director J. A. Bayona in an interview with NME.
Among the proposed cuts was a key moment in the first episode when elf queen Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), who is journeying across the sea to her people’s ancestral homeland of Valinor from where she may not return. As the Elvish fleet approaches Valinor, golden light breaks through the clouds and the sky opens up to admit them – but Galadriel changes her mind and dives off the side of the ship into the water below. Then she begins to swim back to the mainland of Middle-Earth.
This scene contained some of the show’s most impressive visual effects, but Bayona, who directed the first two episodes of The Rings Of Power season one, said producers “tried to take it out” from the schedule because they “didn’t have the money.”
Luckily, Bayona was able to persuade them otherwise. “It wasn’t that expensive,” he said. “I actually convinced them that we were going to be able to shoot that scene in the budget.”
The Spanish filmmaker managed to rescue another scene in episode two, involving giant “sea creatures” that try and attack Galadriel as she shelters on a raft from a violent storm. “I did a lot of stuff that the producers didn’t believe we were going to be able to put in those episodes,” he said, “and we did it on budget and on schedule.”
He added: “In general, I had a great experience in doing that [show]. It was a massive challenge. We had only nine months to do two hours of Lord Of The Rings fiction, you know. It had to match the expectations of the fans and the movies, but we only had nine months. You always want to give more than what you have. It’s a lot from a lot of people.”
Bayona is currently promoting his new Netflix survival thriller Society Of The Snow, which tells the real-life story of a Uruguayan rugby team who crash-landed in the Andes on their way to a tournament in 1972. The few passengers who weren’t killed found themselves stranded on a glacier in extreme conditions with nothing to eat or drink, at one point resorting to cannibalism.
Based on Pablo Vierci’s 2009 book of the same name, Society Of The Snow is a tale of “light and shadow”, said Bayona. This complexity is part of the reason he decided to make it in Spanish, and not in the American system – before bringing it to Netflix to distribute.
“It’s totally the opposite of the kind of stories I’ve seen in Hollywood about survival,” he said. “It’s complex… In Hollywood films, the person who fights the hardest and keeps going [always wins]. In Society Of The Snow, Numa [a survivor played by Enzo Vogrincic] wants to be the hero, but the mountain forces him to learn a different way of being. He needs to learn how to cry. He needs to learn how to be taken care of by the others, you know, which is a very feminine way of behaving. It’s totally the opposite of this masculine way of behaviour that you find in the Hollywood movies.”
The film has today (December 11) been nominated for a Golden Globe award in the Best Film – Non-English Language category. In recent years, thanks to the Oscars success of movies like South Korea’s Parasite and Germany’s All Quiet On The Western Front, debate has intensified around the usefulness of separating films on the basis of language.
“I was talking to one of the heads of The Academy,” said Bayona, “and she told me that 25 per cent of the vote is now foreign, as in, the membership. So that’s changing the nominations and the awards.”
The Academy has been on an inclusion drive in recent years, partly as a response to controversy on social media and the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag that criticised a lack of diversity among nominees. In 2022, the body hit its target of doubling women members and members of colour.
“It took me 10 years to find the financing for this film because it’s in Spanish,” Bayona added. “If it wasn’t in Spanish I would have done this film 10 years ago… So hopefully there will be a moment when that will not be necessary.”
‘Society Of The Snow’ is in select cinemas from December 22 and on Netflix from January 4