Once Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings project was announced in 1999, any fan with a keyboard and the energy could chip in their two cents on who they thought should be cast in the movies. Soon the Internet became host to a frenzy of casting rumours, as every day a new actor was linked to one of the most exciting film projects in production. Three years on, it’s clear now what stories were lies and what were truth, but as we enter the home stretch and less than 12 months until the release of The Return of the King, it seems appropriate to reflect on what could have been…

The Bizzarre…

Keanu Reeves as an elf
When Aint-it-cool-News posted an image of a computer-generated Elf from the offices of WETA on their website, someone pointed out that the creation bore an uncanny similarity to Keanu Reeves. Quicker than you could say ‘dude’, the incredulous story of Keanu’s apparent involvement in LotR spread like wildfire and was subsequently shot down in the space of a couple of days. And then Agent Smith was cast as Elrond…

The Long-Shots…

Sean Connery as Gandalf
For many fans it was only a matter of time until Sean Connery was cast as the wizard Gandalf, a perfect big-name for New Line to attach to the project. When Connery flew to New Zealand it seemed like it was a lock; and then Ian McKellen was cast in his place. All eyes subsequently went towards the vacant space yet to be filled for the character of Denethor… but that never materialised either. Hence, Billy Boyd secured his place as the only cast member with a Scottish accent on set.

Vin Diesel as Aragorn
Riding on the wave of success following his roles in Pitch Black and Saving Private Ryan, Vin Diesel tried his darndest to audition for the role of Aragorn, the future King of Men. However the world’s beefiest Dungeons and Dragons player and fan of all things geeky was unsuccesful, and instead took a very different path to super-stardom.

The Could Have Beens…

Kevin Conway as Theoden
For many months it appeared certain that Kevin Conway would play the King of Rohan, until the man known to many as the captain of the Titanic Bernard Hill was reportedly cast in the role also. For a few weeks it seemed that the project had two actors cast in the same role, until Kevin Conway himself revealed that he turned down the role, believing the amount of time his character would be on screen wouldn’t merit the weeks spent shooting in New Zealand. Time will tell if he chose wisely or not.

Ethan Hawke as Faramir
An actor on the up, Ethan Hawke seemed like a perfect match for the character of Faramir. From an early point Hawke was consired a lock for the part and while he never publically confirmed the role was his, New Line executive Mike DeLuca hinted that Hawke was destined to play Sean Bean’s onscreen brother if he so wished it. However Hawke soon pulled out of the role completely to the disappointment of many fans, and subequently unknown Australian actor David Wenham slipped un-noticed into the role.

Paul Sutera as Lotho Sackville-Baggins
It began with an innocent e-mail to TheOneRing.net from a cousin of Paul Sutera, an actor recently seen in two Brady Bunch movies, who claimed that his relative had been cast in the role of Lotho, son of the troublesome Lobelia who made a brief appearance in The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition. Soon Paul Sutera himself was telling family and friends he would be in The Lord of the Rings and his future in the project seemed assured – until the character was cut from the screenplay entirely, and the young actor’s hopes came crashing down to Middle-earth.

Donald Sutherland as Denethor
While The Lord of the Rings Trilogy had two actors attached for the role of Theoden at one point, the chair of the Steward of Gondor seemingly lay empty for many months. At one point the veteran actor Donald Sutherland was attached to the role, but as time went on it became apparent that this was just another example of the Internet community plucking at straws.

Uma Thurman as Eowyn
After their work together on the film Gattaca, it at one point looked likely that the Hawke/Thurman husband and wife partnership would feature in The Lord of the Rings with the actors playing Faramir and Eowyn respectively. However the stunningly beautiful actress gave birth in the latter part of 1999, and when it appeared that Hawke had decided not to take part in the project it seemed unlikely that the new mother would be able to care for her child and do a gruelling shoot in New Zealand. She wasn’t.

And Finally, The Departure Of The King..

Stuart Townsend as Aragorn
An event which now seems like a distant memory but could have crippled a movie project which had barely gotten started, Stuart Townsend was cast in the role of Aragorn ahead of Viggo Mortensen and had already shot a couple week’s worth of scenes in New Zealand when Peter Jackson decided that he was too young for one of the most pivotal roles in the film. While many would acknowledge that this was an almost crushing blow to his acting career, the Irish actor soldiered on and with starring roles in the Sean Connery comic blockbuster The Extraordinary League of Gentleman and Gabriel Byrne’s Shade on the horizon, thankfully Townsend seems to have overcome the troubles he left behind him in New Zealand.