Wednesday 22 May 2019

The forgotten story of Irish actor Stuart Townsend being fired from Lord of the Rings

Viggo Mortensen stars in Green Book as a bouncer hired to protect a Jamaican-American pianist touring the Deep South (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Lord of the Rings
South African actress Charlize Theron and ex boyfriend Stuart Townsend attend the Irish Film and Television Awards at the Burlington Hotel on November 1, 2003 in Dublin, Ireland.
Stuart Townsend Charlize Thieron
Chloe Townsend with brothers Stuart and Dylan in 2004. Photo: VIP Ireland
Best Actress winner Charlize Theron (L) and boyfriend Stuart Townsend enjoy the moment at the 76th Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball at the Kodak Theatre on February 29, 2004
Irish actor Stuart Townsend
Nominee for Best Actor "Captain Fantastic" Viggo Mortensen arrives on the red carpet for the 89th Oscars on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. / AFP PHOTO / VALERIE MACONVALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

The festive period means different things to different people, but one consistency is the inevitable Lord of the Rings marathon to help the pass the time in between days.

And how different the iconic trilogy could have been if director Peter Jackson had gone with his first choice and hadn't fired Irish actor Stuart Townsend from the role of Aragorn just one day before filming was due to commence. Back in 2000, Townsend was still a rising star with the kind of buzz that comes with having bonafide talent and a relationship with Oscar-winner Charlize Theron and neither party has specified exactly why he was let go so dramatically.

The implication has long remained that Townsend, then 28, was deemed difficult behind the scenes (in 2010 he also left Thor, over "creative differences), but he did comment on the publicised firing back in 2002, which was also the beginning of a battle for his salary.

"I was there rehearsing and training for two months, then was fired the day before filming began," Townsend told Entertainment Weekly. "After that I was told they wouldn't pay me because I was in breach of contract due to not having worked long enough. I had been having a rough time with them, so I was almost relieved to be leaving until they told me I wouldn't be paid.

Best Actress winner Charlize Theron (L) and boyfriend Stuart Townsend enjoy the moment at the 76th Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball at the Kodak Theatre on February 29, 2004
Best Actress winner Charlize Theron (L) and boyfriend Stuart Townsend enjoy the moment at the 76th Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball at the Kodak Theatre on February 29, 2004

"I have no good feelings for those people in charge, I really don't. The director wanted me and then apparently thought better of it because he really wanted someone 20 years older than me and completely different."

Viggo Mortensen, who was 42 at the time, took on the role, claiming that his son "egged him on to do it" and said that no one involved truly anticipated what a phenomenon it would turn into until its premiere in 2001.

"Anybody who says they knew it was going to be the success it was, I don’t think it’s really true. They didn’t have an inkling until they showed 20 minutes in Cannes, in May of 2001," he told the Telegraph.

Townsend still acts on occasion, but he is selling his Los Angeles home as he enjoys a quiet life with his wife and two children in his adopted home of Costa Rica.

Lord of the Rings
Lord of the Rings

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