Sunday Star Times
October 20, 1999
Star Fired After Just Two Days of Filming
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
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 British 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 elves,
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
Sources said Townsend's dismissal forced scenes scheduled for
Thursday and Friday to be postponed. Several local actors hired as extras, some of whom
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.