Three films, three years, and a budget of more than $200 million later, ”The Lord of the Rings” trilogy ends with the Dec. 17 release of ”The Return of the King.” Several of its stars are walking away with more than just the matching Celtic tattoos they got during filming — after the success of the ”Rings” franchise, bigger roles and salaries are coming their way. Here’s our post-”Rings” roundup of their future projects, starting with those huggable lil’ hobbits.
‘RINGS’ ROLE Head hobbit Frodo Baggins, who is charged with destroying the corrupting Ring in the fires of Mordor — the worst delivery-boy job since Domino’s at the height of the 30-minutes-or-less guarantee
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ Beginning with his first credit, as Video Game Boy #1 in ’89’s ”Back to the Future Part II,” Wood played every type of kid role imaginable: Macaulay Culkin’s whipping boy in ”The Good Son”; a dolphin’s best friend in the big-screen version of ”Flipper”; the disturbed teen at the center of a tragedy in the indie ”The Ice Storm”…
AFTER ‘LOTR’ Wood finally gets to play an actual adult: Along with Kirsten Dunst and Mark Ruffalo, he’s part of a medical team trying to erase the memories of an old flame (Kate Winslet) from Jim Carrey’s head in the kooky ”Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004). Sounds weirder than those huge, hairy hobbit feet.
‘RINGS’ ROLE Hobbit Sam Gamgee, the friend of Frodo who jousts the giant spider Shelob in one of ”King”’s most anticipated scenes
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ You probably remember him best for his top-billed roles in cult faves ”Goonies” and ”Rudy”; he’d probably want you to forget that he was Pauly Shore’s sidekick in ”Encino Man.”
AFTER ‘LOTR’ No more hanging with the Wiez. Astin will be in at least four big films in 2004, including supporting spots in the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore romantic comedy ”Fifty First Dates” and ”Elvis Has Left the Building,” directed by Joel Zwick (”My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) and starring Kim Basinger.
‘RINGS’ ROLE Merry Brandybuck, the ”other” hobbit
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ Born and raised in Germany, Monaghan bounced around television roles in Europe for most of his career (a costarring role in the British drama series ”Hetty Wainthropp Investigates” is a highlight for any Anglophiles).
AFTER ‘LOTR’ Due in 2004, ”Shooting Livien” may broaden Monaghan’s domestic appeal while upping his indie cred. The psych drama involves alter egos, identity crises, and suicide plots. Not exactly ”Lord of the Rings” territory, but an actor can remain stuck in Middle-earth for only so long.
‘RINGS’ ROLE Pippin Took, the other ”other” hobbit
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ Things were looking dire before Scotsman Boyd stepped into his hobbit clodhoppers. His final pre-”Rings” role was in the 1999 British bomb ”Julie and the Cadillacs.”
AFTER ‘LOTR’ Considering he was previously unknown Stateside, the ”LOTR” connection likely helped Boyd land a high-profile role as the coxswain to Russell Crowe’s ship captain in ”Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” Check him while that film is still in theaters — the actor doesn’t have much else planned as of now.
‘RINGS’ ROLE Arwen, Aragorn’s elf squeeze, who (cue Enya song) must choose between immortality and love
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ Since her 1998 role opposite Ben Affleck in Bay/Bruckheimer’s bombastic ”Armageddon,” which earned $201 million domestically, Tyler had fallen off the pop-culture-relevancy chart a bit. To blame was a series of roles in smallish, commercially unappealing ensemble flicks such as ”Cookie’s Fortune” and ”One Night at McCool’s.”
AFTER ‘LOTR’ Perhaps she’s decided bigger is better. In Kevin Smith’s ”Jersey Girl,” she teams with the Biggest of the Big Stars: Affleck (again) and, yes, Jennifer Lopez. It’s due in March 2004 — that is, if the stink from Bennifer’s ”Gigli” dissipates by then.
‘RINGS’ ROLE Legolas, the elf with the skills to pay the bills on the crossbow
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ Brit Bloom was just breaking into the business, costarring in Ridley Scott’s ”Black Hawk Down” just about the same time as the first ”Rings” hit.
AFTER ‘LOTR’ Orlando’s career has bloomed in the wake of the franchise’s success, more so than most of his young castmates. In 2005, he’s slated to return to Scott’s viewfinder as 12th-century Crusader Salaq Ul-Hul in ”Kingdom of Heaven.” Also scheduled, of course, are a ”Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel (also 2005) and Wolfgang Petersen’s epic ”Troy” (May 14), in which Bloom, as mythological Trojan prince Paris, pisses off Greek warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt).
‘RINGS’ ROLE Aragorn, the ragged drifter who will soon reign as the titular king
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ He knew how to shave and played variations on That Dangerously Sexy Guy: in ”28 Days,” he was the sexaholic who tempted Sandra Bullock, in ”A Perfect Murder,” he’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s con-man lover, and in ”A Walk on the Moon,” he wooed Woodstock-era housewife Diane Lane away from her family with some hippie lovin’.
AFTER ‘LOTR’ What once looked like the destined path of a typecast actor is now diverted by a lead in Disney’s action-adventure flick ”Hidalgo” (spring 2004). Mortensen plays a former Pony Express courier who travels to Saudi Arabia to kick a little ass (donkeys, silly) with his racehorse named (you guessed it) Hidalgo. It’s the first big film Mortensen’s carried — and, if the actor weren’t so busy with other interests (he’s also a painter, musician, poet, and photographer), he’d likely have a slew of other projects lined up.
Sir Ian McKellen
‘RINGS’ ROLE Gandalf, the respected wizard who guides and advises the Fellowship through their darkest hours
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ They don’t call him ”Sir Ian” for nothing: McKellen is one of the series’ most seasoned actors, beginning in the ’60s with a slew of Shakespeare classics right through another little blockbuster that could, ”X-Men.”
AFTER ‘LOTR’ McKellen will continue to grab coveted roles, especially since ”Rings” has helped make the British actor a certified American star and led him to an Oscar nomination — the only acting nod generated by the franchise thus far. The sole movie he has planned right now, though, is David Mackenzie’s ”Asylum,” a dark romance about a woman who moves with her husband to the loony bin where he works.
‘RINGS’ ROLE The elf queen Galadriel, who’s one of the oldest citizens of Middle-earth but doesn’t look a day over 30. (Must be the Avon lady with the dragon’s tears moisturizing lotion.)
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ She was queen of England (”Elizabeth”) and a tarot card reader (”The Gift”) who saw ”things.” Other than that, she bounced from one commercial disappointment to the next, including ”Bandits,” ”The Shipping News,” and ”The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
AFTER ‘LOTR’ She’s currently the main attraction in two films, the biopic ”Veronica Guerin” and the Ron Howard Western ”The Missing.” And it gets even better next year: Blanchett will star alongside Bill Murray in another sublime Wes Anderson film-school treat (”The Life Aquatic”) AND plays the ravishing Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s Leonardo DiCaprio-led ”The Aviator.”
‘RINGS’ ROLE The gruff but lovable dwarf Gimli, who wields a mean ax
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ You might not have recognized his name, but you knew his face from the Indiana Jones films, wherein he gazed into snake pits alongside Indy as Sallah. The Welsh actor has been in the business for more than two decades, earning a good deal of hushed acclaim along the way.
AFTER ‘LOTR’ In the animated ”Catching Kringle,” he voices the man with the rosy cheeks and bottomless present bag. Costars include Danny DeVito as a general and Larry King as, appropriately, himself. Also up is the soccer feel-good film ”The Game of Their Lives,” due in 2004 and featuring Bush frontman/Gwen Stefani hubby Gavin Rossdale in his acting debut.
‘RINGS’ ROLE The Oscar-nominated director of the trilogy
BEFORE ‘LOTR’ After directing Michael J. Fox in ”The Frighteners,” putting out a slew of lo-fi, ketchup-packet horror films (”Dead Alive,” ”Bad Taste”), and playing with puppet felt (”Meet the Feebles”), New Zealander Jackson directed a then-unknown Kate Winslet in the critically praised but little-seen ”Heavenly Creatures.”
AFTER ‘LOTR’ He’s received the keys to the ”King”-dom, so to speak. The former low-budget master is remaking the classic ”King Kong” with a $20 million salary and, perhaps, an A-list leading lady (Naomi Watts has been offered the Fay Wray role). And hey, if the ape must be CGI, at least we know it’ll be Gollum-good.