LOTR - Rings Star Fired After Just Two Days of Filming

Last Update: 16 June 2000

17 October 1999

Source: Sunday Star Times


Sunday Star Times
By Oskar Alley

The cast and crew of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings
film project are reeling after one of the stars
was sensationally sacked after two days of filming.
Irish actor Stuart Townsend, who had been cast to play
the key role of Aragorn, was dumped on Wednesday
and left New Zealand the same day, insiders on the set
told the Sunday Star-Times. The shock dismissal was
reportedly ordered by Jackson over what a senior studio
executive described as "director-actor creative
chemistry". It is understood no formal announcement
was made and the dumping filtered through to
bemused cast and crew on Thursday.

Sources said the trilogy's producers were already
negotiating with Viggo Mortensen (A Perfect Murder, GI
Jane, Crimson Tide) to fill the vacated role. Townsend's
dismissal had thrown the first week of filming in
Wellington into disarray, forcing at least 1 1/2 days of
scheduled scenes to be postponed.

Just one week into a marathon 18 month shoot, the
project is already believed to be behind schedule.
However, crew morale has been boosted by screen
siren Liv Tyler's arrival in Wellington. She is playing the
elf princess Arwen. It is understood she ate lunch on
the set on Friday, though her first scenes are still weeks away.

Jackson's production company confirmed Townsend had been dismissed but
refused to comment further. Rumours on the set suggested Townsend (26), the star
of the Vritish comedy Shooting Fish either looked too young for the part or that
Jackson was under pressure from studio bosses to replace the actor with a more
recognisable star. New Line Productions president Michael De Luca has reportedly
said: "It's not over any other names, just director-actor creative chemistry."

A spokeswoman for Townsend's London agent confirmed the dismissal yesterday
but referred all other comment to the film's publicist.

Townsend was to have played Aragorn, a human raised by eleves, who is later
revealed as the rightful king of Gondor.

The central character enters the first book at an early stageand guides hero Frodo
Baggins (played by Elijah Wood) on his quest to destroy the all powerful ring.

Sources said Townsend's dismissal forced scenes scheduled for THursday and
Friday to be postponed. Several local actors hired as extras, some of whome have
grown beards for the part, were told by their casting agents their scenes had been
postponed. No reason was given for the delay.

Hollywood entertainment newspaper Variety reported yesterday Mortensen was
negotiating with the film's backers to replace Townsend.

Mortensen (41) is a stranger to New Zealand but not to some of the country's leading
film talents. He had a role in Jane Campion's Portrait of a Lady and in his latest film, A
Walk on the Moon, he stars with Anna Paquin.

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