It’s been roughly 15 years since one of the most iconic books of our time was brought to the big screen. In 1999, Peter Jackson and his team endeavoured to make it possible for us to see Middle Earth up close, and in 2001, they succeeded. Not just the world either, but the characters that fill it, too. For years, bringing The Lord of the Rings to a live action screen was unheard of. However, with the revolution of CGI and blue screens, a window of opportunity opened. An opportunity that launched Peter Jackson to new heights.
Not only did he managed to build Middle Earth – with the help of an incredibly-talented crew – but he brought together a cast of well-known talent and newcomers and made it work. While many of the actors had been around for a while, it wasn’t until The Fellowship was released that they started to regain attention amongst the general public. Since then, I don’t think there’s a single person on this list that hasn’t had consistent work since. So if you are wondering as to where they are now, you needn’t look much further than your TV and computer screens. In fact, if you haven’t seen any of these actors since the trilogy ended, you must have been living in what they call a mine… a mine!
15. Liv Tyler – Arwen Undómiel
The daughter of one of the widest mouths in rock n’ roll, Liv Tyler stole hearts and pitched tents of every nerd from here to the Undying Lands. While many of her roles before Lord of the Rings were lower budget flicks, she did manage to land bigger roles in Armageddon and Stealing Beauty. After attracting attention with her graceful beauty and pointy ears, she went on to work on Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl, with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle in Reign Over Me, as well as Bruce Banner’s love interest in The Incredible Hulk. No word on whether Marvel is going to bring back that plot line, but I’d like to see her welcomed into the MCU. At least until then she can look forward to working on HBO’s The Leftovers.
14. Sir Ian McKellen – Gandalf the White
A veteran of his craft, Ian McKellen has been acting on the big screen since the early 60’s. Mainly gaining fame in the UK with radio shows, plays and adaptations of Shakespeare, he madeh is impact on Hollywood when he was cast in Six Degrees of Separation and The Last Action Hero. However, I am sure most of you remember him as Magneto from the X-Men series. Since finishing with Lord of the Rings, he has been working fairly steadily, reprising his role as Magneto for Days of Future Past, and as Gandalf in The Hobbit trilogy. As well, he will be playing Cogsworth in an upcoming live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast.
13. Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Another actor whose career was skyrocketed by the trilogy. With only a small handful of uncredited roles, landing Legolas was the best thing that could have happened to him. With Lord of the Rings under his belt, it gave him – and Hollywood – the confidence to get into the Pirates of the Carribean series, land the lead in Kingdom of Heaven, and be the wimpy Prince that causes the Trojan War in Troy. As well, he went on to reprise his role as Legolas in The Hobbit trilogy… for some reason. That’s not the only reprising he will be doing, as in 2017 he will be portraying Will Turner again in Dead Men Tell No Tales.
12. Sean Bean – Boromir, Son of Denethor
A man known for being killed off, Lord of the Rings was no exception. Starting with 1986’s Caravaggio, it seems to have become tradition to kill off this man in some way, shape or form. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of times where Sean Bean makes it to the credits, but what fun is that? Before being cast as the infamous Boromir, he was big in the UK with a good run of Sharpe TV movies and a few North American gigs like Patriot Games, Black Beauty and Goldeneye. He hasn’t shied away from the screen since. Gigs like Troy, Silent Hill, Game of Thrones, and Ridley Scott’s upcoming The Martian gives us hope that we will continue to see him dismembered, beaten and killed in many, many more ways.
11. Miranda Otto – Éowyn, The White Lady of Rohan
For those foolish enough to forget, Éowyn is the bad-ass chick who drives her sword into the Witch King’s big, dumb, hooded face. For the most part, her work came out of the UK, but she managed to make her way to our side of the pond with roles in The Thin Red Line and What Lies Beneath. Ever since she slew the Witch King, she has managed to get roles in Flight of the Phoenix, War of the Worlds, and is a series regular in the upcoming season Homeland. Come 2016, she will also be appearing in Westworld, an adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name.
10. David Wenham – Faramir, Son of Denethor
David Wenham is another actor on this list that made his start in UK cinema and television. And, like others on the list, it was Lord of the Rings that brought him over to North American audiences. After his success as the lesser of two brothers, he worked alongside Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing, lost an eye and lived to tell about it in 300, and has had consistent work in TV with shows like Killing Time, Better Man and Banished. While some or these series are short-lived, it hasn’t stopped David from continuing his work. You’ll see him alongside fellow LOTR star Orlando Bloom in the newest edition of the Pirates franchise.
9. Dominic Monaghan – Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck
While he had a few recurring TV roles, it was The Lord of the Rings that launched his career into action. Almost immediately out of Middle Earth, Dominic was caught in a terrible plane crash…or was he? I don’t know. Lost lost me, but what I do know is that Charlie was one of the reasons I watched that show. Since it’s forced ending, he has gone on to do several recurring roles in shows such as Flashforward and Goodnight Burbank. He’s also in a main role in the upcoming Quantum Break with Shawn Ashmore.
8. Billy Boyd – Peregrin “Pippin” Took
Much like his on-screen partner in crime, Billy Boyd had a few roles before being cast in Rings. Shortly after finishing Return of the King, Boyd landed roles in The Seed of Chucky, also starring another LOTR alumni, Brad Douriff. Boyd managed to squeeze in Mast and Commander in between Two Towers and Return. He may not have as prominent a career as his co-stars since finishing Rings, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing his passion, as he has a few projects coming out in the next year.
7. John Rhys-Davies – Gimli, Son of Gloin/Treebeard
Being a huge Indiana Jones fan, you can imagine my excitement when I saw Sallah in the credits. John Rhys-Davies has been around forever. His first role given to him in 1964, he has not relented in the slightest. He currently has 236 acting credits under his belt, and not just live action. He has done numerous voice acting jobs for cartoons, movies and video games. This man is a beast. In between Fellowship and Two Towers alone he had seven things released. Since then, he has done everything, from blockbusters to indie flicks, and most notably in the series Once Upon a Time where he not only plays a character, but is the Narrator as well.
6. Ian Holm – Bilbo Baggins
Along with Sir Ian and Christopher Lee, Ian Holm has been around for a long, long time. He has been acting consistently since 1957, and of course we should all remember him as the manipulating android Ash in Alien. Since giving up the ring to his adoptive nephew, he has been in a wide range of films. From the end of the world flick The Day After Tomorrow, to Lord of War and Ratatouille, he has proven himself as a versatile actor capable of laughs and shivers. He is also one of the five actors to come back to Middle Earth for The Hobbit, the last one being Cate Blanchett. It doesn’t appear that Ian has any future projects, as he’s dealing with health issues.
5. Andy Serkis – Gollum/Sméagol
Andy Serkis has been making his rounds in the UK film scene since 1989. However, it wasn’t until his portrayal of Gollum that he started gaining attention in North America. After playing one of the cutest psychopaths in cinema history, he has gone on to help revolutionize what’s known as “motion capture” in today’s industry. He has his own MoCap studio – The Imaginarium Studios – which was founded in 2011 with producer Jonathan Cavendish. They have done work for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Avengers: Age of Ultron and the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
4. Christopher Lee – Saruman of Many Colours
I mentioned earlier that John Rhys-Davies is a beast. Well, that makes Christopher Lee a super-beast. His first role was in 1947 and he didn’t stop until his passing earlier this year. Literally. Go check it out. He had at least one project released every single year since 1947. There’s even one that hasn’t been released yet. After Lord of the Rings, Lee finished up the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and was another LOTR alum that came back for The Hobbit. It’s unfortunate that we won’t be able to see this talent in any future projects, but luckily with such a prolific career, he will never be forgotten.
3. Viggo Mortensen – Aragorn II, Son of Arathorn
Originally, Aragorn was supposed to be played by Stuart Townsend. In fact, he had actually started filming when Jackson decided they needed an older actor to fill the role. And thus, Viggo was cast. Before he became King, he had done plenty of work. Young Guns II, Carlito’s Way, G.I. Jane and 28 Days. He was no stranger to the camera by the time he wielded Andúril. And he didn’t hesitate to take the spotlight for years after. Pretty much right off the set of Return of the King, he went on to star in Hidalgo, Eastern Promises and A History of Violence. Now, he is rumoured to be in the upcoming instalment of the Bourne series.
2. Sean Astin – Samwise Gamgee
I’m sure you remember this guy from The Goonies and Encino Man. If you don’t, then I suggest checking them out – buh-uhhhddy. And of course we can’t forget about Rudy. However, it wasn’t until Fellowship that he found more and more gigs. Going on to land recurring roles in shows like 24, The Strain and as Raphael in the latest rendition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He currently has a few projects in the works, including an episode of Con Man; a parody on comic convention lifestyle with Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion. And yes, those two will be parodying their roles from Firefly.
1. Elijah Wood – Frodo Baggins
Before he was cast as the Ringbearer, Elijah Wood had a few starring roles in movies and a handful of supporting roles as well. His first role was in Back to the Future II as that kid who looks at Michael J. Fox like he’s a mental case; and from that he managed to land roles in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Flipper, and Deep Impact. Since his days as Frodo, Wood has worked steadily, most notably on the show Wilfred, and his unsettling role as a serial killer in Maniac. He is also slated to be in the upcoming The Last Witch Hunter, starring Vin Diesel.