Today I found out Nicolas Cage was originally offered the part of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. Cage stated in an interview that he turned down the offer due to the around three year time commitment. Cage also stated in the same interview that he was offered the role of Neo in The Matrix, but turned that one down as well for the same reason: “Both are great movies, but they both shot for great quantities of time — I mean years. Australia was ‘The Matrix,’ and New Zealand was ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ I had family obligations, so I’m glad I stayed and had those experiences with my family.”
Interestingly, in the Lord of the Rings, the role of Aragorn was eventually given to Stuart Townsend who has been in various movies including Aeon Flux and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Townsend subsequently trained for two months for the Lord of the Rings before being fired. The reason for the firing was officially because Peter Jackson realized Townsend looked too young for the part.
In Townsend’s own words: “I was there rehearsing and training for two months, then was fired the day before filming began. After that I was told they wouldn’t pay me because I was in breach of contract due to not having worked long enough. I had been having a rough time with them, so I was almost relieved to be leaving until they told me I wouldn’t be paid. I have no good feelings for those people in charge, I really don’t. The director wanted me and then apparently thought better of it because he really wanted someone 20 years older than me and completely different.”
Russell Crowe also turned down the role of Aragorn and it was finally given to Viggo Mortensen after one of the producers, Mark Ordesky, saw a play with Mortensen in it. Mortensen was also initially hesitant to take the role because of the time commitment involved, but his son, who is a huge fan of the books, convinced him to take the part.
- Townsend was not only replaced at the last minute in Lord of the Rings, but also in the more recent movie Thor. In the latter case, the reason cited was “creative differences.”
- When not on set, Mortensen continued to carry his sword around with him, even out to eat at restaurants.
- Vin Diesel, who has stated he’s a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings books, auditioned for the part of Aragorn, but was not ever offered the role.
- Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke were originally going to play Eowyn and Faramir, but had to be replaced at the last minute due to scheduling conflicts.
- Mortensen occasionally went surfing in his free time while filming the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. At one point, he bruised one side of his face badly enough that the makeup crew couldn’t hide it. Rather than stop filming, Peter Jackson simply didn’t film that side of Aragorn’s face throughout that scene. The scene in question was in the Mines of Moria when the fellowship comes across the tomb of Balin.
- Mortensen broke two toes while filming the scene where he kicks the helmet by the pyre, thinking Marry and Pippen were dead. Because of his realistic cry of anguish after kicking the helmet and breaking his toes, Peter Jackson chose that take to include in the movie.
- Orlando Bloom broke two ribs falling off a horse while filming.
- Each frame with Gollum took around eight minutes to render. Each frame with Treebeard took around 30-50 hours to render.
- Andy Serkis was originally offered a three week stint doing voice over work in New Zealand for the role of Gollum. The film makers hadn’t originally planned on having anyone play Gollum beyond just someone to do the voice. However, Serkis chose to act out the part while doing the voice work during scenes. Jackson was so impressed, he hired him to play the part full time. Gollum’s movements, facial expressions, and mannerisms were then modeled by the animators after Serkis’ performances in the scenes.
- John Rhys-Davies originally auditioned for the part of the part of Lord Denethor, but was given the part of Gimli the Dwarf, despite Rhys-Davies being six feet one inch tall. Rhys-Davies also did the voice of Treebeard.
- When Arwen defeats the Ringwraiths after crossing the river, the words she speaks in that scene translate thus: “Waters of the Hithaeglir, hear the word of power, rush, waters of Bruinen, against the Ringwraiths” (Nîn o Chithaeglir lasto beth daer; rimmo nín Bruinen dan in Ulaer)
- Peter Jackson didn’t ever see the completed theatrical version of the Return of the King film from start to finish until watching it at the premiere in New Zealand. The final theatrical version of that film wasn’t completed until just five days before that premier. Interestingly, Jackson actually continued to film the Return of the King even after it had been released to theaters. The final filmed scenes were included in the extended edition.
- The largest prop ever built to date for a movie appears in Return of the King and is an Oliphant carcass.
- It was originally planned and filmed such that Sauron confronted Aragorn in the final battle. This was changed at the last minute and, instead, the animators replaced Sauron’s character with a giant troll, which Aragorn battles in that scene instead.
- Peter Jackson appears in the Battle of Helm’s Deep as a soldier throwing a spear. His hand also appears as Sam’s hand in one of the shots where Sam is battling Shelob.
- Elijah Wood’s sister plays one of the refugees in the caves of the Hornburg.
- Sean Astin’s daughter play’s Sam’s daughter in the final scene of the Return of the King.
- In order to make their mouths black, actors playing Orcs would gargle and swish around a special black liquorice/mouthwash mix before each scene.
- Over 19,000 costumes were created by around 40 seamstresses for the films.
- Over 1,100 miles of film were used in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
- The three movies combined to gross $2.915 billion, while only costing $281 million. The films were also estimated to have pumped around $200 million into the New Zealand economy during filming alone, let alone a boost in tourism after the fact.
Expand for References:
- Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Rings
- Movies that Got Away
- Stuart Townsend
- Nods to Reddit TodayILearned for the idea: Specifically
- Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy
- Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Ring
- Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers
- Lord of the Rings, Return of the King
- The Two Towers Trivia
- Fellowship of the Ring Trilogy
- Return of the King Trivia
- Townsend Replaced on Thor