Two decades ago—or closer to what feels like 10 years for Hobbits—the film adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring was released. Frankly, the world was never the same again.
The legendary story by British wordsmith J.R.R. Tolkien had been around for much longer than that. Reading each book in the three-part series was somewhat of an adolescent rite of passage—its detailed pages challenging young minds to immerse themselves in Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth.
For those who made it to the end (and even those who didn’t), it was clear this piece of fiction was more than just a good read. A whole dedicated fandom grew off the back of the books, so when the movie trilogy was filmed and New Zealand’s stunning landscapes became the backdrop to Hobbiton, Rohan, Gondor and beyond, anticipation was at an all time high.
Suffice to say, it didn’t disappoint (let the franchise’s record breaking number of Oscars tell you that). With a cast so perfectly suited to each of their roles, we were hooked from day dot.
Indeed, were you really in your teens if you didn’t harbour an undying love for Legolas (or Aragorn!)? And try to tell us you didn’t cry when Gandalf uttered those final iconic words, “Fly you fools!” as the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm yanked him away from the Fellowship—we’ll wait.
And of course, Samwise Gamgee’s pure undying love and dedication for Frodo Baggins beats any famous friendship we’ve ever known.
Each of these characters continue to provide fans of the series with a deeper, comforting kind of nostalgia—and the actors that portrayed them certainly know it.
In fact, they relish in it—that much was clear when they dropped a parody rap video in December 2021 to celebrate the first film’s 20-year anniversary on The Colbert Report.
Needless to say, a lot can happen in 20 years—a quick look at their portfolios proves they’ve seen and done a lot more since their Fellowship was first formed.
So with that, we thought it a task of great importance (not like, throwing the ring into Mount Doom important, more like squeezing in a meal for elevenses after breakfast on the important scale) to have a look at where the main stars of the series are now.
Keep scrolling for an adventure down memory lane…
With his big blue eyes and sweet nature, Elijah Wood is hard to miss—and he’ll forever be synonymous with his OG role as Frodo Baggins.
But while many actors who play the lead role in such a well-known franchise often end up getting typecast, unable to escape from the shadow of their famous character, Wood has carved out a seriously impressive path in his own right.
Post-LOTR, the now 40-year-old expanded his portfolio into voice-work, video games and a bunch of short films. But his most notable roles were in cult television series Star Wars Renaissance and TRON: Uprising.
Alongside that, Elijah still struggles to this day to validate his identity to fans who confuse him with Harry Potter‘s Daniel Radcliffe—and vice versa.
Remember that time when Sean Astin was so exhausted and probably about die from dehydration (not to mention not having eaten a bite of his beloved potatoes in yonks) when he picked up Elijah Wood and carried him up a rocky hill to the fires within Mount Doom?
It’s for this reason alone that we will always always have a soft spot for Astin, or more accurately, his loyal, committed character Samwise Gamgee.
The actor, now 50, followed up his successful LOTR stint by delving into rom-com territory. He starred in two Adam Sandler hits 50 First Dates and Click in the late noughties, and followed up with bunch of television gigs—namely NBC comedy My Name Is Earl, and Netflix’s Stranger Things.
Long live Sean and long live Samwise.
He was one half of the cheeky trickster Hobbit duo, Merry and Pippin, but when all was said and done, Meriadoc Brandybuck could be rather wise.
The same could be said for Monaghan, who remains as loyal to the franchises fanbase as ever. He frequently interacts with his fans over Instagram with Q&As where he answers questions and occasionally provides a couple of sarcastic (and comedic) responses—often about the LOTR films and its iconic cast.
While the now 45-year-old went on to star in several major films including X-Men: Origins and Star Wars:The Rise Of Skywalker Monaghan’s biggest role outside of LOTR was on cult sci-fi series Lost, where he played Charlie Pace (never forget).
Of course, there’s no denying Monaghan’s experience on LOTR was his major highlight—his life-long friendship with Billy Boyd, AKA Peregrin Took and their new podcast can speak to that…
Which brings us to… Pippin AKA ‘fool of a Took’ AKA Billy Boyd. His character’s clumsy, mischievous nature and penchant for a second breakfast had us besotted from day one—and Boyd is just as wonderful in real life.
The Scottish-born actor, now 53, still busies himself in the acting circuit—he went to on star alongside Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and he also scored a role in 2012 film Dorothy and the Witches Of Oz. He’s also dabbled in TV by making guest appearances in Casualty, The Simpsons and even Grays Anatomy.
But our favourite thing about his current portfolio is the podcast he hosts with his off-and-on-screen bestie Dominic Monaghan. Called The Friendship Onion, the pair discuss memories of filming the LOTR series and speak to various cast members who shed behind-the-scenes insights—it’s the ultimate podcast for any Middle Earth fan.
Viggo Mortensen, AKA the man who somehow made greasy hair and an unkempt appearance incredibly hot, will forever be Aragorn, King of Gondor. But the actor’s talent took him far further than the franchise.
The 63-year-old has been nominated for no less than three Oscars for his work on Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic and Green Book.
He remains in the film-industry to this day, with two of his projects set for release next year—Unabomb and Eureka—going by his track record, they’ll definitely be ones to watch.
Liv Tyler was a screen stalwart long before The Lord Of The Rings, but there’s no denying that the role of Arwin, daughter of Elrond was her best to date.
After wrapping up the series, Tyler went on to star in The Incredible Hulk before moving into the television space, adding HBO series The Leftovers and Fox drama 9-1-1: Lone Star to her portfolio.
Perhaps one of the most well-known faces to get their break on The Lord Of The Rings was Orlando Bloom as Legolas, an elf of the Woodland Realm. Yes, it was about this time a number of people across the world realised they had a thing for men with long hair (there’s even a TikTok trend about it…).
After LOTR, Bloom starred in another famous film franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as joining Brad Pitt in Troy and Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown.
The actor also reprised his role in the film’s prequel trilogy, The Hobbit which starred Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins.
Bloom, 46 remains front and centre of the spotlight these days after he married famous singer Katy Perry with whom he shares a daughter, Daisy Dove. Bloom also has another child, a son named Flynn Christopher to his former partner, Australian model Miranda Kerr.
At 86, Ian McKellen is as charismatic and vibrant as ever. He solidified himself as an unspoken grandfather-figure to the masses when he played Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings—and his impressive portfolio continues to amaze us.
A lover of the stage, McKellen returned to the Shakespeare Theatre Company after filming LOTR, appearing in both King Lear and The Seagull in the late noughties.
He’s also continued dabbling in films, with roles in the X-Men series, and The Da Vinci Code. McKellen also joined bloom in reprising his role in The Hobbit trilogy.
These days, McKellen continues to prove why he’s one of the greatest actors of a generation. More recently, he starred in The Good Liar alongside Helen Mirren and he’s set to appear in a modern film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the coming months.
Australian actor Cate Blanchett was the great, yet at-times terrifying Galadriel in LOTR, but it certainly wasn’t the only iconic role she’s played. The 52-year-old has been nominated for no less than seven Oscars (two of which she won), with her roles in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Carol and Blue Jasmine earning her international acclaim.
These days, she continues to make Hollywood her own. She starred in the recently released Don’t Look Up alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, and she’s graced two major television series with her presence: Mrs. America and Stateless.
Blanchett’s dedication to the Australian acting industry also deserves a mention, she’s spent many years working at the Sydney Theatre company, which she co-directs alongside her husband Andrew Upton.
Next, Blanchett is set to star in upcoming film, Pinocchio, and she’ll join the all-new cast of revival series, Brideshead Revisited.