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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 08:21 GMT
From Middle-earth to superstars

By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Orlando Bloom (left) and Viggo Mortensen have become household names
As The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King has its UK première, BBC News Online looks at the trilogy's effect on the people who made it.

When auditions for the Lord of the Rings took place, many of the actors were told filming the trilogy would take up about nine months of their time.

Not quite true - it was, as Arwen actress Liv Tyler has testified, more like four years. But few are complaining. Taking part in Jackson's trilogy has transformed careers.

Take Christopher Lee (Saruman) - notwithstanding a last minute argument over his Return of the King scenes being cut - he has gained a new generation of fans unaware of his past as the 1950s Hammer Dracula.

To an actor afraid for decades of being typecast as the fanged villain, that will undoubtedly come as a relief.

Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom
Orlando Bloom (right) went on to star with Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean
Orlando Bloom, who plays elf Legolas, has capitalised on his Rings fame the quickest.

Just months after the release of The Fellowship of the Ring he was starring in Black Hawk Down, Ridley Scott's tale of a botched US military operation in Somalia in 1993.

Iconic hero

But it was this summer that he really showed his post-Rings mettle, starring as the dashing Will Turner in the massive hit Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Bloom has already signed up to a sequel - but even before then adds to a heroic CV with a part in the upcoming Troy, playing the warrior Paris.

Viggo Mortensen, who plays the brooding Aragorn, has capped a long career playing enigmatic heroes. But it was Lord of the Rings that made him a star. His final portrayal of Aragorn could make him an Oscar contender.

Having played the most iconic movie maverick since Han Solo, a late start as an action hero seems to beckon.

But the Danish-speaking Mortensen's post Aragorn roles in the future are in an adventure about a horse-rider (Hidalgo) and voice work in the sci-fi animation Live Freaky Die Freaky.

Russell Crowe and Billy Boyd
Billy Boyd, right, full-size in Master and Commander
As for the hobbits, Billy Boyd (Pippin) has already starred in another blockbuster, Russell Crowe's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

He played coxswain Barrett Bonden - though the part required the actor to say little more than "south, southwest, sir".

Elijah Wood, who plays Frodo, is playing a darker role as one of his next projects - that of a Harvard student-turned football yob in the film Hooligans.

Before that he will be seen in next year's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a script from Being John Malkovich and Adaptation writer Charlie Kaufman, where a couple try to halt their failing relationship by having their bad memories erased.

In a lighter moment, he has also given his voice to Happy Feet, an animated adventure about a musical penguin which will be released in 2006.

Director Peter Jackson himself has also had to deal with changing fortunes - not least the fact he can no longer walk down the street without being recognised.

Director Peter Jackson
Jackson has said the fans' adulation made him feel like a Beatle
More than 100,000 people lined Wellington's Courtenay Place last week to welcome the director and the stars at the Return of the King's world première.

"For a brief moment in time I knew what it was like to be one of The Beatles," the 42-year-old director said.

The trilogy has turned the director from a cult film-maker into a Hollywood goldmine, with a real chance of walking away with a major Oscar in 2004.

He has been handed an upfront fee of over £12m - the highest in cinema history - to direct his next film, a remake of King Kong.

Painstaking

Ten years ago alien movie Bad Taste, filmed in any spare time he had from his job on a Wellington newspaper, saw Jackson directing, filming, making his own props - and even starring as a hapless commando.

But for Lord of the Rings more than 15,000 people were involved in making the films, and Jackson developed his special effects workshop into a state-of-the-art complex to rival anything in Hollywood.

Fell Beast
Wellington has thrown its weight behind Rings fever
Another big winner has been New Zealand itself.

The New Zealand tourist authorities have leaped on the publicity opportunities, using slogans such as "You've seen it for three hours - now see it for three weeks" - and "Best Supporting Country in a Motion Picture".

Now some talk of a "Frodo economy" - it is reported that one in 10 of New Zealand's tourists are making their visits because of Lord of the Rings.





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