Behind the Scenes Drama: Why Was Stuart Townsend Fired from LoTR?

Behind the Scenes Drama: Why Was Stuart Townsend Fired from LoTR?
Image credit: Legion-Media

The role of Aragorn in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy made a remarkable Danish-American actor, Viggo Mortensen, a worldwide star.

But this job came to Mortensen almost by accident, as King of Reunited Gondor and Arnor was initially meant to be played by another man, who was sacked from the project overnight for a strange reason.

In 1999, Peter Jackson began filming of the first installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and even during the pre-production phase, it was clear that it would be a major success. The casting was closely watched by movie fans and fans of Tolkien's saga alike. And the director himself had a clear idea of what the main characters should look like and who would play them. Today, after all these years, it's safe to say that everyone did a great job.

The cast included both famous and unknown actors.

Some strengthened their position in Hollywood, some woke up being famous, and for many the role in The Lord of the Rings was the pinnacle of their career.

Jackson paid special attention to the choice of the role of Aragorn as one of the key characters, who in the course of the three parts undergoes a transformation from the anonymous Strider to the true King of the West.

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The director had dreamed of seeing Daniel Day-Lewis playing the role, but the renowned actor, unfortunately, refused. It is also known that negotiations were held with Nicolas Cage (it would be a completely different movie), Russell Crowe (okay, not bad) and Vin Diesel (he did not pass the audition, but was not too upset about it).

In the end, the Irish actor Stuart Townsend was confirmed for the role of Aragorn. Yep, today not many people recognize his name, but in the late 90s this handsome boy, born in 1972, was everywhere. Bright looks ensured Stuart great roles and the attention of movie fans.

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Townsend signed the contract to play Aragorn and spent six weeks preparing for the role. It was a lot of work: the actor learned how to ride a horse, how to fight both with swords and without, and mastered other things that any medieval man should know.

However, he was not able to stay on set for too long. On the eve of filming, Peter Jackson announced to the Irishman that he was... fired.

According to the official version, the director did not like how Townsend looked on camera. He decided that he was too young for the role of Strider. Unofficially, Jackson and Townsend did not match in character. Behind the scenes, the Irishman was known as a troublemaker.

So that's how Viggo Mortensen, born in 1958, became Aragorn. He received the offer in a hurry, almost by chance, and had no intention of accepting it. Had it not been for Viggo's son, a fan of the Tolkien saga, who persuaded his father, perhaps we would still have had to admire Nicolas Cage standing under the White Tree of Gondor.

Being fired from The Lord of the Rings was a huge blow to Stuart Townsend and everyone who worked with him during that month and a half. The most unpleasant thing for the actor was that they didn't pay him a cent: the contract was written in such a way that the time he spent on set was not enough for financial compensation.

The whole thing with The Lord of the Rings also affected the career of Stewart. Not only did he lose a chance to play a leading role, but also the circumstances in which it happened, forced the whole film industry to be cautious about working with him.

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In 2002, Townsend played the vampire Lestat in Queen of the Damned, and perhaps this character remained the pinnacle of his career.

After that, he got a few more or less notable roles, then he switched to TV. For almost 10 years, the Irishman has not appeared on the big screen. His long romance with actress Charlize Theron also ended before the wedding.