Twenty years! It's been twenty years since we first entered Middle-earth. But it was nearly so very different...
Back in the distant past, if you had been offered a role in The Lord of the Rings, you'd have thought twice about it too: a long, outdoorsy shoot on the other side of the world, for a relatively untested director, (presumably) not a huge amount of up-front payment and no guarantee of not being a laughing stock at the end of it, especially if you had to have a giant prosthetic nose and ramble on about wargs.
Yet the cast who eventually signed on the dotted line had a whale of a time by all accounts, not to mention an enormously successful trilogy on their CV. In some cases, the fun even went on for a further three films when Peter Jackson came back for The Hobbit.
But we're here to see how things could have been. These are just some of the actors who were offered roles in The Lord of the Rings, but said no…
1. Nicolas Cage – Aragorn
Speaking of Aragorn and Neo in The Matrix (another role he turned down), Cage said, "I probably would have benefited from [the roles] if circumstances in my life allowed me to make them." Make of that what you will. He divorced his first wife, Patricia Arquette, the year the Fellowship of the Ring came out, if that means anything.
2. Russell Crowe – also Aragorn
The producers offered him 10% of the profits, but Russ wanted an upfront fee. Oh well, he only missed out on £56 million. "If I had taken that film, I wouldn't be here," he told a student audience at Durham University, which you could definitely read as shade on the fine city of Durham.
3. Daniel Day-Lewis – yes, another Aragorn
The king of method acting (how would that have worked in Middle-earth?) reportedly turned the role down three times. And even he wasn't the last: Stuart Townsend was famously cast for five minutes before Peter Jackson realised he'd made a mistake and replaced him with Viggo Mortensen.
4. Lucy Lawless – Galadriel
You can see the logic: she's a New Zealander, so casting her would save on air fare and accommodation, and she has built-in genre appeal after starring as Xena, everyone's favourite warrior princess. According to reports, Lucy was Peter Jackson's first choice for elf queen Galadriel, but sadly she became pregnant at the wrong time for the back-to-back filming schedule, so that was that. Well, we say sadly, but not for her: she had a baby, and most people prefer those to jobs.
5. Sean Connery – Gandalf
You knew about this one, right? Everyone's heard of this one. Apparently Sean "never understood the script", so he turned down £4m per movie plus a 15% profit share. He didn't understand LOTR, but he did understand The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? (If he can explain TLOEG to us, we'd love to hear it if it saves us watching it again.)
6. Christopher Plummer – also Gandalf
Plummer told Conan O'Brien that while he was indeed offered the role, the thought of three or four years in New Zealand was the dealbreaker for a man then already in his 70s: "I thought there are other countries I'd like to visit before I croak." He's still with us and still working, so he could have fitted it in, it turns out.
7. Liam Neeson – Boromir
Details on this one are a little sketchy, so let's file it under woulda, coulda, shoulda. "I have a particular set of skills… and a big ancestral horn."
8. Uma Thurman – Arwen
"I wish I had done it," Uma later said. "I had a small child at the time, and I couldn't go away for a year... Oh, I truly wish I could've been able to take that plunge, and maybe I should have, but I just couldn't at the time." Her loss was Liv Tyler's gain.
9. Ethan Hawke – Faramir
There's no hard evidence to back this one up, but Hawke's name came up a lot in reference to Boromir's ill-favoured brother before the films went into production. But the gig went to Kiwi actor David Wenham.
10. Alison Doody – Eowyn
"Who's Alison Doody?" Her from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, that's who. The Irish actress also has a small measure of notoriety (among Adam & Joe fans at least) for starring alongside Pierce Brosnan in his Irish-set thriller Taffin. She was offered the role of Gondor's premier shieldmaiden, but turned it down because she'd only recently given birth and didn't want to spend time away from her baby.
11. Kevin Conway – Théoden
"The simbelmyne. Ever has it grown on the graves of my fathers…" Bernard Hill's maybe, Kev. But not yours.
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