This Wednesday will mark Sir Ian McKellen’s sixth time playing the role of Gandalf with the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. He’s been playing the most powerful wizard in all of Middle Earth so long (13 years) that it’s difficult to picture anybody else slipping into Gandalf’s hat and beard.
The cast of The Lord of the Rings trilogy that fans have come to know and love wasn’t always what Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema had in mind. The movie probably still would have been an incredible success because of Peter Jackson’s direction and the series’ amazing CGI work, but we would certainly have a very different view of Elrond and Aragorn if the competition had landed the roles.
Here are five actors who were vying to be part of the Fellowship of the Ring, but for various reasons lost out.
David Bowie — Elrond
The White Duke already had experience playing a goblin king, so you would think he’d have an easy transition to playing an elf king, right? He probably could have saved the wardrobe department a few bucks and just worn his old costume from Labryinth, too. David Bowie had expressed interest in playing the Elf lord, but Peter Jackson just wasn’t feeling it and thought that the singer’s fame would overshadow the part.
“These are famous, famous characters, loved for nearly 50 years,” Jackson says. “To have a famous, beloved character and a famous star colliding is slightly uncomfortable.” Via EW
Sean Connery — Gandalf
Peter Jackson has maintained that Ian McKellen was always his numero uno pick for Gandalf, but the studio had other plans and was after Scottish actor Sean Connery. New Line Cinema offered the former James Bond actor $6 million per film to join the cast, and when he shot that down they threw in a 15% stake in the film franchise’s box office profits, meaning Sean lost out on around $450 million. He’s not bent out of shape about losing the part and simply said that he didn’t understand the role to begin with. “I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don’t understand it. Ian McKellen, I believe, is marvelous in it.”
Russell Crowe — Aragorn
Russell Crowe found himself in the same boat as Sean Connery before the part went to Viggo Mortensen, when New Line Cinema offered him 10 percent of the film’s profits as an upfront fee. Whereas Sean Connery was offered a spot on the LOTR cast at the end of his career, Russell passed on the part at arguably the height of his career, having just finished Gladiator a year earlier. It was a harsh career lesson and when asked about the mistake by students during a speech at Durham University he simply replied, “If I had taken that film, I wouldn’t be here.”
Daniel Day-Lewis and Keanu Reeves were reportedly also after the part of bad-ass sword swinger Aragorn, and Nicolas Cage revealed that he nearly had the part, but passed on it to spend more time with his family — and steal the Declaration of Independence, of course.
Jake Gyllenhaal — Frodo
This could have been a huge career boost for Jake Gyllenhaal, but unfortunately for him it turned out to be one of the worst auditions he ever went on — mostly because he was completely unaware Frodo was supposed to have an accent.
“I remember auditioning for The Lord of the Rings and going in and not being told that I needed a British accent. I really do remember Peter Jackson saying to me, ‘You know that you have to do this in a British accent?’ We heard back it was literally one of the worst auditions.”
Uma Thurman — Eowyn
Uma Thurman was in talks with Peter Jackson to take a role in the second two films of the trilogy and would have probably been convincing as the daughter of the House of Eorl. She admitted that she was a fan of the story and wished she had taken the role, but the part came up when her daughter was still a toddler and a trip to New Zealand would have probably been a bad idea.
“Yeah, I was asked,” Thurman confirmed to MTV News of an offer from Peter Jackson to play Eowyn in the second and third films in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. “I had a small child at the time and I couldn’t go away for a year. I was just too attached to home. It just caught me at the wrong moment. I wish I had done it,” she confessed.