It’s been a whopping 16 years since the first Lord of the Rings movie hit our cinema screens and I still remember it like it was yesterday (mainly because I went to see the film at least 3 times!). Still, I have no shame. The Lord of the Rings franchise awakened the geek in me and I’m definitely not the only one. If Star Wars invented geek culture in the 20th century, then the release of The Fellowship of the Ring arguably renewed geek fandom for a new generation and the films are still as quotable and well-loved by film fans as they always were.
The massive success of the Lord of the Rings films made overnight stars of the main cast, some of whom continue to appear in films and TV shows today. Viggo Mortensen recently starred in the 2016 indie drama Captain Fantastic, while Elijah Wood is currently enjoying success as Todd Brotzman in the sci-fi comedy Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (which returns for a second season this fall). But outside the main fellowship, what happened to the rest of the Lord of the Rings cast?
Peter Jackson’s recent adaptation of The Hobbit in 2012 helped to revive some of the characters from LOTR, but most of these actors hadn’t appeared in much before or since. Now that Jackson has pretty much hung up his Middle Earth cloak, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see the original cast appear in anything together again, so what have the less major characters been up to all these years? Scroll down to find out!
Andy Serkis may always be known as Gollum to some people, but he has proved himself to be quite the chameleon in the years since Lord of the Rings. The motion capture technology which was used to bring Gollum’s character to life is something the British actor has stuck with and it’s brought him endless success over the past few years. This film technique has brought him roles such as King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005 adaptation of the same name and most recently, The Planet of the Apes prequels.
Serkis has played the lead ape turned revolutionary rebel Caesar since the Planet of the Apes series rebooted in 2014. At the moment, the ever-busy actor is working on a video game to tie-in with the latest film in the franchise War For the Planet of the Apes which will be released in July. Next in the pipeline is an appearance in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as well as producing (and starring) in a 2018 production of Jungle Book. Phew.
The beautiful Liv Tyler stole our hearts as Arwen in Lord of the Rings, playing the elven daughter of Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and one-half of one of the best couples on the silver screen. Her relationship with Aragorn (played by Viggo Mortensen) was romantic without being sappy and gave the films a much needed female touch in a cast largely made up of dudes. Since her last appearance with the LOTR cast in 2003’s Return of the King, the brunette beauty has been keeping busy with her three kids and in small film and TV roles.
Most recently, Tyler has regularly appeared on the HBO show The Leftovers and is due to star in a TV mini-series about the Guy Fawkes plot called Gunpowder. Before this, Liv had some minor roles in the 2008 reboot of The Incredible Hulk, the thriller The Strangers and in the 2014 sci-fi comedy Space Station 76 which parodied the cheesy costumes and storylines of most 1970’s sci-fi shows.
The movie legend that is Sir Christopher Lee sadly passed away in 2015 but right up until his death, Lee had been pretty active – working on several projects including a short film and making his own heavy metal album! It might sound unlikely, but Sir Christopher was a huge fan of metal music at the age of 92, he even released his very own heavy metal Christmas song back in 2014 called "Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing!" Talk about being a million miles away from Saruman (although, the long hair kinda fits the whole metal look).
When Lee wasn’t making metal albums during his last few years, we also saw him reprise his role as Saruman in all three installments of The Hobbit trilogy from 2012 to 2014. Never one to give up working, Sir Christopher was also due to appear alongside Uma Thurman in a 9/11 drama but died only months before shooting began.
Aussie actor Hugo Weaving arguably made it big before Lord of the Rings, when he played the nefarious Agent Smith in The Matrix back in 1999, but the noughties brought the actor his most well-known role when he signed up to play the Elven Lord Elrond of Rivendell. (Fun fact: David Bowie was originally interested in the part of Elrond, but was denied by director Peter Jackson for being “too famous” for the role). Still, he made the right choice in the end – no one else can eyebrow act quite like Weaving did as Elrond.
In his eight year break between appearing as Elrond once more for The Hobbit film trilogy, Hugo Weaving appeared in quite a few successful films in the last few years – ranging from his role as V in V for Vendetta to roles in the Transformers reboot and recently in the 2016 war film Hacksaw Ridge with Andrew Garfield.
Cate Blanchett portrayed the graceful golden haired "lady of light" Galadriel in both the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. But what has she been up to since? Although a lot of us will always think of Blanchett as Galadriel, the graceful Australian actress definitely didn’t become typecast as an elf in her post-Middle Earth career. Blanchett has kept herself busy in many acclaimed film roles – most recently in the Woody Allen flick Blue Jasmine (for which Blanchett won an Oscar) and in the 50s set romance Carol alongside Rooney Mara.
As of 2017, Cate Blanchett will be appearing as an all-powerful villain in the latest Thor installment Thor: Ragnarok. Since departing from playing the angelic Galadriel, Blanchett appears to have been picking roles that fall on the more evil side of the spectrum. Next up, she’ll be paying the scheming snake Kaa in Andy Serkis’ production of Jungle Book in 2018
Bernard Hill has the rare honor of being the only LOTR cast member on this list to star in two of the biggest grossing films ever made – The Return of the King and Titanic. Hill first came to Hollywood’s attention playing Captain Edward J. Smith in Titanic who honorably went down with the ship and a matter of years later, he went on to play King Theoden (and die tragically again). Since these major movie roles, British actor Bernard Hill has had a fairly quiet life on screen – appearing in the odd action movie and UK TV series.
Over in the UK, Hill recently had a recurring role in the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and has appeared in an adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s regency drama North And South. But outside of period dramas, some may have spotted Bernard Hill rubbing shoulders with Tom Cruise in 2008’s Valkyrie and in The Scorpion King alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Veteran actor Ian Holm has appeared in many iconic films – Chariots of Fire, Brazil, The Fifth Element, to name a few – but he will be remembered by so many as the crotchety but lovable hobbit who went on an unexpected journey. LOTR nerds everywhere (myself included) were very happy to see him reprise his role as old Bilbo Baggins alongside Martin Freeman’s portrayal of younger Bilbo in The Hobbit trilogy.
To date, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the latest film appearance for the 85-year-old in 2014, but age hasn’t stopped him from flexing his acting muscles since finishing up on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 2007, Ian Holm lent his voice to Skinner – the horrid, rat-hating chef in Ratatouille. Since then, Holm has also done some narration work on a handful of British documentaries and has provided voices for the 2014 video game Alien: Isolation.
The New Zealand born actor Karl Urban became a key player in the second and third installments of Lord of the Rings. He played the Rohan soldier Eomer, brother of Eowyn and nephew to King Theoden. As Eomer, Urban was involved in one of the most epic movie battles ever during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields during The Return of the King. In this battle - spoilers! - Theoden was killed and movingly made Eomer King of Rohan with his dying breath. So what did he get up to after ruling over Rohan? Quite a bit actually.
Like another LOTR cast member on our list, Karl Urban is soon to appear in Thor: Ragnarok in the fall. In fact, his post-Lord of the Rings career is pretty much littered with superhero roles. (What is it with LOTR actors and superhero movies?). In 2012, Urban played the title role in the post-apocalyptic sci-fi blockbuster Dredd and has starred as Doctor "Bones" McCoy in the latest Star Trek reboots.
Female characters in Lord of the Rings were few and far between, but I’m glad to say that each one had a strong personality and none were more badass or heroic than Eowyn. Australian-born actress Miranda Otto reportedly had more fighting scenes than any other woman on set and was actually told by Peter Jackson to go ahead and “hit the stunt doubles” with her sword in battle to make the whole things more realistic! Oh yeah, and to top off her badass credentials, she killed the Witch-King of Angmar – Sauron’s second in command (though, let’s hope she didn’t actually harm the guy playing him).
So what has the unsung heroine of Middle Earth been up to ever since? Horror fans will spot Otto starring as Esther Mullins in the latest creepy doll Anabelle sequel Anabelle: Creation. You might also recognize Miranda from her roles in the hit TV series Homeland, 24:Legacy and recently as Maddy Deane in the Greg Kinnear comedy show Rake.
The mad, vile King Denethor of Gondor – father to Boromir and Faramir – was involved in one of the most beautiful scenes in Return of the King (although Denethor was being pretty disgusting at the time). While Faramir was sent to die needlessly in battle, Denethor demanded that Pippin entertains him while he sits stuffing his ungrateful face with chicken, letting the blood dribble down his cheek. Knowing he was powerless to help his friends, Pippin’s song was heartbreaking – especially as he was forced to watch Denethor eat like Homer Simpson at the all-you-can-eat buffet.
But what has John Noble – the guy who played King Denethor – been up to since? LOTR fans will be pleased to know that the man behind Denethor is the opposite of a slob. The Australian actor John Noble has directed an astonishing 80 plays in his time, lent his voice to many popular video games (including L.A. Noire) and has had recurring roles in Home and Away and the 2014 Fox series Sleepy Hollow.
Since playing the sneaky, younger brother of Boromir, the man behind Faramir - Aussie actor David Wenham – has had a pretty steady film career since departing from Middle Earth. Immediately after appearing in Return of the King, Wenham could be seen in a range of popular films across the board – from Van Helsing and The Proposition to the Spartan war epic 300 alongside Gerard Butler. Most recently though, Wenham has had roles in the Oscar-winning drama Lion in 2016 and starred as the vengeful Royal Navy Lieutenant Scarfield in Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge.
These days, David Wenham has enjoyed more success on the smaller screen, appearing in a number of mini TV series set in Australia and New Zealand such as Wake in Fright and the hugely popular murder mystery Top of the Lake. Wenham’s next film outing will be in the Errol Flynn biopic In Like Flynn which is due for release in 2018.
There were a lot of characters to hate in Lord of the Rings, but fans of the trilogy probably despised this slimy creep the most. The spineless and manipulative character of Grima Wormtongue – Saruman’s spy posing as an advisor to King Theoden – was played brilliantly by Brad Dourif. Since he made his screen debut as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dourif has made a name for himself as one of the great unsung character actors in cinema, starring in everything from Blue Velvet and Dune to recurring appearances in Star Trek: Voyager and Deadwood.
In more recent years though, Brad Dourif has become more well-known as the voice of Chucky in the reboot of the Chucky horror films. Dourif has also had bit parts in mini TV series and has even appeared in music videos. You can spot him playing the devil (not so far from Wormtongue then) in the video for Calvin Harris’ 2012 track "Drinking From The Bottle."
We only got to see Isildur’s character in flashbacks during the brief scenes in the first and final installments of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but this guy played a pretty vital role. Having failed to destroy the ring, this guy’s greed is the reason the one ring was in existence for thousands of years (until Frodo and Sam finally did the right thing, that is). Brief though his part may have been, it’s pretty cool to be the guy credited with slicing off Sauron’s hand and creating havoc for all of Middle Earth. But what has the man behind Isildur been up to all these years?
As far as being in front of the camera, life has been pretty quiet for New Zealand actor Harry Sinclair, having only appeared in a couple of short films in the past 15 years called Don’t Call It a Comeback and The Call of Charlie. But since Lord of the Rings, Sinclair has become more at home being behind the camera instead. To date, Sinclair has directed 8 different film and TV projects, including 9 episodes of the modern remake of 90210.
Elves are normally meant to be kind and forgiving people, but Haldir gave the fellowship a pretty frosty welcome when we first met him in The Two Towers. Not only did he delay the gang on their journey to Mordor wearing one of the smuggest facial expressions ever, he also threatened that he could “shoot Gimli in the dark” because he breathed so loud. Straight away, this character was not on our Christmas list. He soon proved his worth, though and eventually died heroically at Helm’s Deep, so first impressions definitely aren’t everything.
So, what became of the actor Craig Parker who played Haldir of Lothlorien? Quite a lot as it turns out. Since wrapping up on Lord of the Rings, Parker appeared in a number of soaps and TV comedy series in his home country of New Zealand (and even narrated an episode of The Power Rangers!) His most recent role has been in the fantasy drama Reign which charts the life and scandals of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Rosie Cotton was a fairly minor character in Lord of the Rings, but an important one nonetheless – for those that don’t remember (but can probably guess from the picture), Rosie was the farmer’s daughter from the Shire that Sam (Sean Astin) was in love with and eventually married in the third and final film. She may have only appeared in a handful of scenes, but Rosie represented one of Sam’s reasons to survive his ordeal and return home to his village – so seeing these guys eventually tie the knot in the final film was quite the tearjerker (for me anyway!).
Since playing the sweetheart of Samwise Gamgee, New Zealand-born actress Sarah McLeod has stayed close to home, starring in a number of New Zealand soaps and mini TV series such as the 2012 comedy Auckland Daze and the medical drama Shortland Street. It’s fair to say that whatever she does, I’m sure McLeod is proud to be best known as Mrs. Samwise Gamgee.