As legend has it, a few years back, Jeff Bezos demanded that his team at Amazon Studios create a fantasy epic that would put Game of Thrones to shame. Turns out, that kind of thing is even harder to do than it sounds. And more expensive than you can imagine. Inside the epic quest to bring Wheel of Time to life—and maybe change the face of global television forever.
By Zach Baron. October 19, 2021
Not long ago, this quarry, 40 kilometers outside Prague, held a carefully built fake town called the Two Rivers. Then, a few days back, the producers and set dressers of Amazon’s The Wheel of Time burned it down. The town’s inn, an intricately rendered two-story building, is now blackened, its left side plunged into spiky rubble: Smoke machines give the impression that it is still smoldering. There are holes in roofs, artfully destroyed beams. Every house—interior and exterior—has been charred enough so that it shows on camera.
The actors who wander the Two Rivers are made up to match. Rosamund Pike, who starred in Gone Girl, is smudged with soot. Rain has begun to come down in earnest, pooling in the muddy streets and making the extras and the stuntmen shiver. Michael McElhatton, who played Roose Bolton on Game of Thrones and is playing a character called Tam al’Thor on The Wheel of Time, sits on a stump in the middle of it all in a big down jacket, staring at nothing in particular.
It’s November 2019, and the production—comprising hundreds of, and on some days nearly a thousand, people—is filming the end of the first episode of what everyone hopes will be a television show that runs for, well: six seasons? Eight? A show that will be as epic and sensational and ubiquitous as Game of Thrones once was.