Date: Dec '01
screen debut was back in 1985 as a young Amish farmer in Peter Weir's
Witness. Since then he's been in over 30 movies including
The Portrait Of A Lady, Carlito's Way and G.I. Jane. He's now starring
in the first instalment of Lord Of The Rings as Aragorn (a.k.a. Strider),
a role he will play in both the follow-up movies. Credited with a
sterling performance as the brave but broken Aragorn, here he talks
about making the movie, the Harry Potter phenomenon, sword-fighting
and his new tattoo...
Is the adventure finished, or is the release of Lord Of The Rings where
the real adventure begins?
" Well it hasn't finished because we're going back for some pick-up
shots and some re-shoots next year, just as we did this year, to
complete two and three. But in the sense of it being completed, it is completed.
I look at the process as being our work. The rest is the director
our material and making his version of the events of the shoot and,
in this case, his interpretation of the book. I had my fun, and I
was one of the lucky few that were there during this, not always an easy
experience. I'm proud to be part of that team."
People are comparing this to the Star Wars trilogy. It's going to change
your life, isn't it?
" I'm not interested in even using the energy to try to form an opinion
of what it might all mean. I just know I did my best to serve two
masters, Tolkien and Peter Jackson, and my conscience is clean. It was business
as usual for me in the sense of doing the best I could with the part
I was given to play; I just had longer time to do it. And it was
better material than I usually get to work on, obviously."
People have been anticipating a battle between Lord Of The Rings and
Harry Potter. Have you seen Harry Potter and do you think the films
" [Harry Potter] is not unlike the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew; it's kind
of a fun thing for kids. But it's unfair to Harry Potter and Lord
Of The Rings to compare them on any level other than box office results.
Harry Potter is a grain of sand from an ocean of material that you
have from Tolkien... after all, Harry Potter, the pointy hats and the wizards,
none of that would exist without Gandalf."
You replaced Stuart Townsend two weeks into filming. How far in advance
of your arrival in New Zealand did you get the call, and were you physically
prepared for the demands of the role?
" I got the call asking if I would be on the plane the next day, which
I eventually did do. I wouldn't say I was ready physically. I was
willing, I guess, although hesitant to some degree. I had a couple of days to
learn as much as I could, especially sword-work because the first
I had to do involved sword fighting. I was basically trying to read
the book and the scripts, learn how to handle a sword, and learn
the [Elvish] dialect and whatever the hell else I had to do all at once."
How far into the shoot were you when you had one of your front teeth
broken filming a fight scene?
" That was quite a way in. That was probably in the last third, I suppose."
You should have been good enough to duck by then, shouldn't you?
" Yeah, I should have. Actually I'm surprised that more things didn't
happen to all of us, or the stunt players playing our adversaries.
Part of the reason they didn't, I suppose, was that we got to know each other
so well it was like we were dance partners. We developed this physical
shorthand with each other and that was helpful in pushing it more
more. In parts two and three, some of the fighting moves faster and
is more risky. Everyone got hurt at some point."
Were the three films shot back-to-back or simultaneously?
" We jumped all over the place. We began, kind of but not really, in
sequence, working on the latter part of one. By the end, we would
be jumping between all three movies on the same day."
How did you keep a through-line on your character?
" It's the same as any movie; there was just more material to keep
track on and more details to try and be consistent about. As I always
do, I worked in concert not only with all the other actors and the
director, but also the wardrobe department and hair and make-up. Part of what's
interesting to me is putting the puzzle together so that you can
just throw yourself into what has to happen. It's much like learning
the words, forgetting them, and then trying to play it like it's
the first time you've said them."
At the end of the shoot, you and the other members of the Fellowship
got a tattoo... You look embarrassed. Do you regret doing it now?
" No! The idea was to have it be a secret but I guess that was hopeless."
What does the tattoo symbolise?
" I suppose we didn't need to add another scar to commemorate the real
scars we already had. But it was a way of saying thank you to each
other, I suppose, and reaffirming the bond that we had developed, and probably
always will have to one degree or another, as actors who played these
Finally, do you think people's hunger for fantasies like Lord Of The
Rings and Harry Potter has increased since September 11?
" Harry Potter is an escapist fantasy, with, frankly, very little relevance
to our daily lives, whereas I think Lord Of The Rings is a whole
other thing. It's much more profound. What Tolkien wrote about, and what I
think we captured the spirit and tone of, does have to do with September
11. It's about the need for individuals to think as individuals and
be active, attentive participants in their own lives. Each member
of the Fellowship joins of his own accord, and remains loyal to the Fellowship
and its quest by his own accord, and it's not always easy. There
moments of trepidation, of doubt, and choices have to be made, big
and small, on a daily basis - just like in our lives."