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'The Lord of the Rings:' 10 actors who were almost cast in the movie franchise

Sorry, but I can't imagine anyone other than Sean Astin playing the brave and loyal Samwise Gamgee (a.k.a. Sam).

It all began with the forging of the Great Trilogy. Three movies were given to humankind. One story to rule them all. In 2001, the world of cinema witnessed the premiere on the big screen of the first installment of The Lord of the Rings, directed by Peter Jackson. With an astonishing production, The Lord of the Rings became a critically acclaimed trilogy, winning seventeen Academy Awards altogether, and won the love of millions of fans on a global scale. 

Part of the film series’s success had to do with its extraordinary ensemble cast, with the talents of Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Elijah Wood (Frodo), and Andy Serkis (Gollum). Yet, like in any other film production, other actors were considered for a role, which would have changed the Middle-Earth we know.

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1.  Daniel Day-Lewis as Aragorn

Peter Jackson’s original choice for the role of Aragorn, heir of Isildur, was the acclaimed Sir Daniel Day-Lewis. However, the now-retired English actor turned down the offer.

Apparently, Jackson was keen on having Sir Daniel as part of the cast, since Jackson approached numerous times and even offered more money. Eventually, Peter moved on and gave Viggo Mortensen the part of Aragorn. 

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It is said that part of the reason why Sir Daniel Day-Lewis rejected the opportunity had to do with the fact that he has never been fond of big movie franchises. 

Would you imagine Sir Daniel's method approach applied to Gondor’s king?

2. Uma Thurman as Arwen and Éowyn

That’s right, Uma Thurman was not considered once but rather twice for the franchise! During the casting process for Lord of the Rings, Thurman's name came up for two roles: Arwen and Éowyn. At first, the star of Pulp Fiction was contemplated for Arwen, Aragorn’s true love and daughter of Lord Elrond. 

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Yet, Uma had to turn down the role since she was pregnant at the time. Later on, she was approached for the part of Éowyn, the shied-maiden of Rohan, but she was already compromised with Kill Bill.

However, Uma Thurman decided to turn down the part. Hence, the role was given to Miranda Otto. In an episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the actress confessed that her action was "one of the worst decisions ever made." 

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In the end, both Uma and Miranda did an amazing job in portraying incredible female warriors!

3. Patrick Stewart as Gandalf

Legendary actor Sir Patrick Stewart had met with Peter Jackson to discuss the role of Gandalf. Screenwriter Philippa Boyens even recorded a tape of Sir Patrick performing opposite his long-time friend, Sir Ian McKellen!

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While Jackson’s choice was Sir Patrick, Boyens saw in Sir Ian’s performance the embodiment of the grey wizard. From there, we know how the story went. Sir Ian McKellen was cast and would be responsible to give life to Mithrandir, a task he accomplished without a doubt.  

In 2008, at the New York Star Trek Convention, Patrick Stewart confessed that, although Jackson wanted to consider him for Gandalf, the actor wanted another role instead (although he didn't say which one).

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4. Jake Gyllenhaal as Frodo Baggins

The role of Frodo went to Elijah Wood, but before him, other actors did a screen test. One of them was Jake Gyllenhaal, who had made it to the shortlist. In fact, he was even asked to do a private audition for Peter Jackson himself.

However, he eventually lost the part to Elijah. In 2013, Jake Gyllenhaal admitted that it was not the best audition of his acting career, who was at the time an 18-19-year-old unknown actor. “I remember going in and not being told that I needed a British accent ... We heard back it was literally one of the worst auditions,” said Gyllenhaal.

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5. Liam Neeson as Boromir

One does not simply walk away from having the chance to star in The Lord of the Rings! Well, it seems Liam Neeson just did. Neeson was  PeterJackson's top choice. There is no doubt that he would have delivered a spectacular performance as part of the fellowship.

But, after reading the script, Neeson decided to pass on the project. And so, the part went to Sean Bean. In an alternate universe, we could have seen Qui-Gon Jinn fighting on Middle-Earth.

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6. David Bowie as Elrond

We’ve known that the late David Bowie had acting skills. This is why it doesn’t sound weird that the legendary singer was actively campaigning for the role of Elrond, Lord of Rivendell. 

Nevertheless, Bowie’s wish to portray Elrond didn’t come since Jackson pointed out that having an iconic name like his could overshadow the character, so the chosen one to portray Rivendell’s ruler was Hugo Weaving.

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7. Vin Diesel as Aragorn

Nop, I didn’t write this name by mistake. Vin Diesel, in fact, auditioned to play Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. Though it may sound a bit odd, at the moment, Vin Diesel was under the radar, and he wasn’t related to action movies that involved cars. 

So why not give it a shot? After all, the actor has declared on numerous occasions that he’s a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast and a huge fan of Tolkien’s books. Sadly for him, he didn’t get the role of Aragorn. But, hey! Vin did get a franchise of his own, though a bit different from the Tolkien universe. 

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8. Kate Winslet as Éowyn

Another one of the main candidates for Éowyn was Kate Winslet. Peter Jackson sought to reunite with the incredibly talented actress by offering her the role of the warrior and noblewoman of Rohan. While she was originally interested, according to former New Line executive Mike De Luca, she eventually declined the role due to the lengthy commitment required for such a production. 

9. James Corden As Samwise Gamgee

Nowadays, James Corden is the host of his own talk show, The Late Late Show with James Corden. But back then, he was a struggling actor trying to land a role that would start his acting career.

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According to IMDb, auditioning for the role of Sam was Corden’s first audition. Of course, James didn’t land the role and the part of Frodo’s loyal friend and heroic hobbit went to the incredible Sean Astin.

10. Nicolas Cage as Aragorn

Last but not least, we have Nicolas Cage, another actor who passed on the opportunity of playing the king of Gondor. In an interview for MTV in 2011, Nicolas Cage revealed that he regretted turning down two roles: Neo from The Matrix and Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings.

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He revealed that he rejected the part because the film production would mean that he would have to be away from his house for over a year. "They both shot in New Zealand for great quantities of time... I mean years... But I had family obligations, so I'm glad I stayed, and I had those experiences with my family," said Cage.

Images from: New Line Cinema, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Miramax Films, Open Road Films, Tri-Star Pictures, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Relativity Media Rogue

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