The Lord of the Rings franchise seems to never run out of things to talk about or explore. Here we look at what the cast of the legendary fantasy is doing now, shocking facts from the set, differences between the books and the films, The Hobbit animated movie, what the Rings of Power is based on and much more.

The Lord of the Rings is like a Midas touch to anyone who comes to work with it. Starting with the creator of the books himself, J.R.R. Tolkien, who gained success during his lifetime for the book series, and continuing to our modern days, where shows and movies are still being shot about the all-time favorite fantasy novels.

The movie franchise made by Peter Jackson is no different – theories are still being made about Lord of the Rings, discussions are continued, movies are religiously rewatched and Aragorn is still a movie crush to all the fantasy lovers, judging by countless TikTok edits featuring Viggo Mortensen playing his breakthrough character.

After all this time, there is still a lot to learn – so let’s dive deep akin to Gollum in the last movie, but not into the burning fires of Mount Doom, but into the lore and news of The Lord of the Rings.

The Lord of the Rings actors – where are they now?

Like many other things about The Lord of the Rings movies, the actors that starred in the films also experienced the golden touch of the franchise, and even after the very last movie came out, the main cast did not have any shortage of work. Some of them even returned to play the same roles in spin-offs even years later – see if you already know which characters did what.

Ian McKellen

The Pantomime Awards 2023
Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images

Sir Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf the Grey in the Lord of the Rings, had been a very prominent actor way before he started working in Peter Jackson’s franchise. He played in Oscar-nominated Gods and Monsters (1998), received a number of awards for playing Tsar in Rasputin (1996), and overall did a lot before his presence graced the set of Lord of the Rings. So, no wonder that his Shakespearean disposition and acting skills were desired everywhere else after his performance in the Lord of the Rings.

In the same year that the second part of the Lord of the Rings, the Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers (2002) came out, McKellen starred in the X-Men playing Magneto, his role sticking to him for more than 10 years. He played in more hits like The Da Vinci Code (2006), Stardust (2007), and, of course, the Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit, directed again by Peter Jackson. In 2012, Ian McKellen returned to the role of Gandalf to play in the first part of the Hobbit franchise, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

One of his future projects is The Critic, an upcoming period thriller film where McKellen will play alongside Ben Barnes, Gemma Arterton, and Mark Strong. The Critic is currently in production.

Cate Blanchett

2023 Fragrance Foundation Awards
Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

Cate Blanchett’s two Oscars for The Aviator (2005) and Blue Jasmine (2014) speak for themselves as to how her career has been after the Lord of the Rings. There, she played one of the greatest elves in Middle-earth, the ethereal Lady Galadriel. Like McKellen, she returned to the movies to appear in The Hobbit, playing a supporting role in the trilogy.

Blanchett has one of the most multifaceted careers amongst contemporary actors: she played in big-budget, box office hits like Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Ocean’s 8 (2018); and partook in more subtle roles, like in Carol (2015) (for which she received an Oscar nomination) and Tár (2022), a critically acclaimed film and one of her latest works about a composer – and avid manipulator – Lydia Tár.

Viggo Mortensen

"Thirteen Lives" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals
Photo by Mark Von Holden/Variety via Getty Images

Mortensen has a colorful career after the trilogy. Like Blanchett, he has a mix of big, well-known projects on his list, like Green Book (2018) which won three Oscars, where he played Mahershala Ali’s character’s driver, The Road (2009) a touching post-apocalyptic story about a father trying to get his son to safety, an indie film Captain Fantastic (2016) where Mortensen again played a single father who continues to raise his kids in the wild after their mother died. The new film that came out with Mortensen starring in it has not grossed high, but it was critically acclaimed: a six-minute standing ovation was received at its premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.

Elijah Wood

World Premiere Of Season Two Of Showtime's "Yellowjackets" - Arrivals
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Wood, born on 28 January 1981 making him 42 years old, first began his epic life adventure in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he modeled and appeared in local commercials as a youngster. Going on to star in Forever Young with Mel Gibson and The Adventures of Huck Finn, Wood soon found his true calling as the iconic character Frodo Baggins in 2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Following his success, he then went on to a role in the 2004 film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as Patrick.

With a plethora of roles under his belt since The Lord of The Rings, recently Wood provided the voice of Nick Johnsmith / Gristol Malik in the video game Psychonauts 2 and as Walter Tattersall in Yellowjackets Season 2. Wood and his partner, Danish film producer Mette-Marie Kongsved, have two children together, a son born in 2019 and a daughter born in 2022. Wood ditched the Hollywood lifestyle and currently resides in Austin, Texas.

The Lord of the Rings cast

Most shocking facts from the set of The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings has a Guinness World record for the most latex feet in a single film

The Lord of the Rings holds the record for the most latex feet made for a single film. This happened on the set of the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) in New Zealand. More than 1,600 pairs of latex feet were used during the production of the first movie. It was due to the fact that the feet had to be glued onto the feet of the actors for up to two hours at the start of the day and then ripped apart to be taken off, which made them impossible to reuse.

A pantomime pony “Panto Bill” with two people inside was used on set of the Lord of the Rings

The most observant of those who have watched the Lord of the Rings may have paid attention to Sam’s pony – Bill. Bill appeared in the Fellowship of the Ring and was played by a real pony. But like any other actor on set, he had a stunt double – each for his front and rear. In his official blog, Ian McKellen reminisces how he “inelegantly” dubbed the pony “Panto Bill”. The stunt doubles were Rebecca Fitzgerald and Katrina Talbot.

The Lord of the Rings movies almost didn’t happen because of Weinstein’s Miramax

That is true – in the middle of the 90s, when Miramax gained the rights to make a film adaptation of Tolkien’s book, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh were assigned to direct the films. However, upon their realization that their vision of how the films should turn out was not supported, they became determined to find another studio.

They spoke to Weinstein and Miramax agreed – but gave them a “mission impossible” – to find a studio in a span of a weekend and make them agree to produce all three films. In an unexpected turn of events, New Line Cinema agreed to do both, and so that was how Jackson’s project was salvaged.

Elijah Wood shared in a podcast that Sean Austin (Sam in films) said his first memory of getting on set in New Zealand was seeing orc masks that “was designed to look like Harvey Weinstein as a sort of a f**k you.”

Viggo Mortensen breaking his toe on set – and the footage making it to the final cut

This one might become a classic and be one of the moments when fans of the movies point to the screens and exclaim “Did you know that in this scene…” If you did not, well, here is the story.

There is a part in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where Viggo Mortensen’s character Aragorn is looking for Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), two hobbits who became part of the Fellowship by showing their remarkable loyalty. So, when at one point in the movie, Aragorn alongside Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) find the remains and think that they belong to the two hobbits, he kicks the helmet lying around across the ground.

Aragorn then screams from exasperation and grief, thinking his friends are dead, but Mortensen most probably had screamed from agony – as he has broken his two toes, as was revealed in The Lord of the Rings: Behind the Scenes, which Peter Jackson then proceeded to leave in the movie. The performance that Mortensen delivered whilst in pain was just too good.

New Line Cinema's "Lord Of The Rings" Gets 13 Oscar Nominations
Photo by New Line/WireImage

Do The Lord of the Rings movies stay true to the books?

It is no wonder that adapting books, video games, etc to movies – especially widely loved ones – is a laborious, and often ungrateful work. It is almost impossible to satisfy the fans and not get a “the book/game/comic was better” scenario. The Lord of the Rings film adaptation, for the most part, has done pretty well in serving the original faithfully – but has it really done everything and not strayed from the original even once?

The Lord of the Rings books vs the movies

It seems that the biggest difference – and also the most not obvious to an eye one – is how diverse the atmosphere between the original and the adaptation will come across if you start comparing the two.

It most probably was both a necessary evil and an auteur choice on Jackson’s part, to change the pacing and the tone.

The books written by Tolkien had a light-hearted, almost fairytale-like feeling to them. While it did explore serious topics and had its own fair share of violence, the tone, and even the characters of the books give significantly different feelings.

The light-heartedness in the books is obtained by Tolkien’s use of language and by the slower, more relaxed pacing. The films are action-packed and often dark, and Jackson does not shun including excessive gore in the films, for example during fight scenes, when showing the aftermath of a large battle and etc.

Some fans tie the difference to Jackson’s love for horror and special effects, evident from his earlier works: Bad Taste (1987), a science-fiction comedy horror about alien invasion, Braindead (1992), a zombie comedy, and The Frighteners (1996), another comedy horror with supernatural features in it. Jackson himself admitted in his interview in 2001: “I love visual effects. Every film I’ve ever made has had a lot of effects, so I’m very comfortable with [them].”

J R R Tolkien
Photo by Haywood Magee/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Lord of the Rings characters are different from the books

There were characters who were omitted entirely from the movies, like Tom Bombadil, one of the oldest beings in Middle-earth, or those whose roles were extended for the sake of the storyline in the film – like Arwen, played by Liv Tyler. But as per Jackson’s explanation in the same interview to Cinefantastique as before, he wanted to acknowledge Bombadil’s character, and probably the others that are missing from the movies, but as he said: “We didn’t have time to do it.”

The characters who stayed and how they appeared on the screen changed, too. Putting characters like Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn side-by-side will reveal that their counterparts in the movies are less sure and doubtful about a lot of things. Frodo in the movies will seem more juvenile and fragile.

Gandalf, who faced fear and inner turmoils about traveling through Moria, an underground kingdom in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, was actually the one to insist the Fellowship should go through there in the books. The same goes for Aragorn – while he seemed insecure about becoming the king in the movies, in the original text, there was not a thing he was more sure about.

What is The Rings of Power based on? The Lord of the Rings adaptation explored

The Rings of Power is based loosely on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, published in 1954. The series tells the story of Middle-earth during the Second Age when the Rings of Power (not the show, but the actual rings) were created and Sauron, the main antagonist of Jackson’s trilogy, rose to power. The main characters of the series may be familiar from the movie trilogy and the book, like Galadriel and Elrond, but are made thousands of years younger in the show.

The reason for that is that Amazon Studios, which produced the series with New Line Cinema, was conditioned to not make a continuation of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. So, the creators of the show, J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay came to this solution: they read The Lord of the Rings and all the appendices and filled in the gaps themselves to construct Middle-earth before the actions took place in the book. So, the show is depicting the actions that took place way before those that are happening in the adaptations that have been already existing.

Behind the scenes with the cast of Amazon Primes, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, at San Diego Comic-Con
Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Are there new Lord of the Rings movies coming out?

Yes! After three official movies, two fan-made ones, a number of animated films, and one TV show, there is still more to reveal about Middle-earth.

A new animated film, produced by New Line Cinema, will be called The Lord of The Rings: The War of the Rohirrim and is currently scheduled for 12 April 2024. The animated film is going to be set 183 years prior to the events of The Lord of the Rings movies and will tell the story of Helm Hammerhand, the leader of the kingdom of Rohan.

After The Lord of The Rings: The War of the Rohirrim other Lord of the Rings movies are on the horizon that will look into gaps within Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

Is there a Hobbit animated film? 1977 movie examined

While waiting for a new The Lord of the Rings film to come out, it is always good to revisit something that has already been existing for a long time.

The Hobbit animated movie came out in 1977, animated by Topcraft – a predecessor to Studio Ghibli. The movie is the adaptation of The Hobbit, written by Tolkien, that was published in 1937. It tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who takes off on an unexpected journey after Gandalf, whom we are already familiar with, finds Bilbo to take him on a mission to help the dwarves, led by their king Thorin Oakenshield, bring back their home on the Lonely Mountain and get around Smaug the dragon. During the journey, Bilbo finds a ring, which will then lead to the story told in The Lord of the Rings movie.

The cute animated film is 77 minutes long and has musical interludes there, with lyrics based on songs featured in Tolkien’s book. You can watch The Hobbit (1977) right now on Amazon Prime Video by either renting it or buying it.

Where to stream all The Lord of the Rings movies

Thankfully, all of The Lord of the Rings movies plus the prequel The Hobbit are available to stream on Max (previously HBO Max) and DirecTV. Both of the services are available in the US.

Max is available for the following prices: With ads: $9.99 per month ($99.99 per year), Ad-free: $15.99 per month ($149.99 annually)

DirecTV goes for these prices: Entertainment All Included: $64.99 per month, Choice: $84.99 per month, Ultimate: $109.99 per month, Premier: $154.99 per month

For UK fans, the movies are available on NowTV: Entertainment Pass: £9.99 per month – gives access to 300 TV series boxsets.

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