It seems Viggo Mortensen wasn’t the first person approached to play Aragorn – it was Russell Crowe.
The actor was in talks with director Peter Jackson about taking on the huge part, but ended up turning it down – despite the huge amount of money he could have made from such a lucrative project.
In a new interview, he’s revealed the surprisingly thoughtful reason he walked away from what could have been an almighty opportunity.
And it all comes down to feeling like he was only wanted by studio bigwigs – and not by Jackson himself.
“I didn’t think Peter Jackson wanted me on that film,” he told Howard Stern.
“Because I think he was forced into talking to me, because there was a moment in time when everyone wanted me in everything.”
After having a phone discussion with Jackson, it seemed Crowe got the impression that he wasn’t top of Jackson’s wishlist – and ultimately he didn’t want to get in the way.
“I am talking to him on the phone, it is like, I don’t think he even knows what I’ve done,” Crowe recalled.
“I just knew that my instinct was that he had somebody else in mind, which turned out to be Viggo, and he should be allowed to hire the actor who he wants.”
Crowe was offered 10% of the “backend gross” of the movies, which – according to reports – comes out at a staggering $100 million.
Asked if he has any regrets, given that potential payday, he joked: “Never thought about it. Only in situations like interviews where people are polite and kind enough to add shit up for me.”
Still, Crowe has plenty of iconic projects to his name – not least Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind and Les Miserables.
The Lord of the Rings franchise began in 2001 with the release of The Fellowship of the Ring; with the trilogy also taking in The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003).
All three were made simultaneously in what was one of the most ambitious projects of all time; with a budget of a reported $281 million.
Based on JRR Tolkien’s books, they then spawned a prequel trilogy; The Hobbit – again made by Jackson.
Those movies were even more commercially successful than the LOTR ones, but the critics’ reviews were far more mixed.