Casting Aragorn

© New Line Productions Inc.

Casting Aragorn

There was another significant addition, [to the creative personnel] this time in the cast. Shortly after filming began it was decided that actor Stuart Townsend had been miscast in the role of Aragorn. While mutually agreed, the timing of the decision to recast could scarcely have been worse: Stuart had been preparing with the rest of the Fellowship actors and filming was due to begin on the scenes in which the Hobbits first encounter Aragorn (as Strider) at the Prancing Pony in Bree.

Executive Producer Mark Ordesky takes up the story: "I was in London when I got the call from Peter... We had five days in which to find and cast the right person, make the deal and get him on a plane for New Zealand-for fifteen months! That is an inherently dramatic situation."

For Mark, there was only one contender for the role of Aragorn-Viggo Mortensen: "My wife had seen Viggo in Crimson Tide and pushed me and harangued me to track him down and meet with him. Viggo doesn't 'do lunch' with Hollywood 'suits,' but eventually I got to meet with him and afterward told Peter that I was passionate about finding an opportunity to work with Viggo."

A year later that opportunity arose, but it took brinkmanship to win the day: "We got a script to Viggo and his reaction was to say no! It took three more days to convince him. At the eleventh hour, Viggo Mortensen arrived in Wellington, joined the already bonded cast and stepped into filming almost as enexpectedly as his character, the mysterious and unknown Strider, appears in the story. Peter likes to say that 'fate intervened,' but he doesn't realize that fate was given a helping hand a year before when Viggo reluctantly 'did lunch' with an unknown 'suit!'"

The Making of the Movie Trilogy

Victoria Burrows, the casting director on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, can be thanked for rescuing Mortensen from the limited category of "leading lady's hunk." Burrows told BSW, "I've been involved with Viggo's career a few times, but he was just special from Day One. We did [the 1997 Fox TV movie] Vanishing Point together. I brought Viggo Mortensen [to Lord of the Rings]. That was a story in itself, since he was a replacement and because he and Peter couldn't meet the first time. When Peter realized that he needed to make a change, I pushed forward on Viggo, and his manager, who's a very dear friend, helped maneuver it into position because of the time."

Good Fellow
by Jamie Painter Young
Backstage West
5 January 2004

When Mr. Jackson telephoned Mr. Mortensen, whose work he admired, the conversation did not seem to go well.

"Knowing Viggo now, his conversation was incredibly Viggo-like, but at the time it was incredibly off-putting," Mr. Jackson said. "He was asking about the character: how long has he lived with the elves? Where are his parents? If I didn't know the answer, I'd make it up. There would be this terrible long silence, and I didn't know if the phone had disconnected or not, and then he'd ask another question and there would be 30 more seconds of silence."

"At the very end of the call, I thought it had gone very badly, that he wasn't going to do the role," Mr. Jackson continued. "I was thinking, `What are we going to do now?' as I was waiting for the call to end, and then there was another long silence and Viggo said, `I guess I'll see you on Tuesday.' "

Peter Jackson on offering him the part of Aragorn
The Man Who Would Just As Soon Not Be King
By Sarah Lyall
New York Times, 2003

Basically, I got a call: "Do you want to go to New Zealand for fourteen months to film The Lord of the Rings?" Just, you know, this famous epic trilogy! And my first reaction was "No!" Obviously I'd heard of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, but I hadn't read the book, and I certainly hadn't read the script; I usually like to have a lot more time to prepare for a major role; and I really didn't want to be away from my family for that long. I have to say, it didn't sound like a very wise move to me at all!

My son said I was crazy and that I had to do it, even if I was going to be gone a long time. So there I am on the plane for New Zealand, reading that enormous, telephone directory-sized book and then the scripts, and a couple of days later I'm filming. I continued to feel unprepared, but at least I didn't have much time to get nervous, which was probably good!

Viggo Mortensen
Official Movie Guide

"I guess in the end I did it because I would feel that I had been chicken shit really. I had to leave the next day, so I'm on the plane reading, looking at this gigantic book and thinking, 'What the hell have I done?"

Viggo Mortensen
The Man Who Would Be King
by Nick Dent
Black & White magazine 2001

Last edited: 17 February 2010 04:45:24