Starring in a sweeping trilogy based one one of the most poplar fantasy series of all time should come with some pretty big perks, including stardom. Many of the actors of the Lord of the Rings series went on to become bigger names, starring in blockbuster movies, TV shows, or award-winning performances. Some of them, however, seem to have slipped through the cracks, whether succumbing to lesser roles or being forgotten entirely.
With over nine hours in Elven, Dwarvish or Orcish garb and gear, some of these talented actors may have simply been typecast and unable to escape Hobbiton and nearby areas. Others may simply lack the talent or even the general look required to launch into superstardom. Many still carry on, attempting to move past The Two Towers and Return of the King in order to make a new name for themselves, while others unfortunately find dark places to occupy instead.
The syndrome isn’t limited to actors in every scene, either. Many names that have fallen into obscurity come from smaller roles, too. Whether it’s a background character, the movie’s token female or some of the biggest names of the series, here are 16 Lord Of The Rings Stars Whose Careers Flopped After The Movies Ended.
16. Sean Astin
We hate to include Sean Astin here since he’s kind of a geek god just between the trilogy and The Goonies, and that title has solidified after he portrayed the tragic character Bob in the second season of Stranger Things last year. Yes, it’s still too soon. Astin is amazing. He also simply happens to be underused.
The bulk of Astin’s recent work has been voicing the wisecracking hero in a half-shell Raphael in the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. From Justice League Action to Bunnicula, he’s lent his vocal talents to several animated shows. He’s had spots on TV shows such as The Strain and The Librarians, and been in several movies such as Bad Kids at Crestview Academy alongside his daughter, but he’s still either Samwise Gamgee 0r Mikey Walsh, depending on your generation.
15. Brad Dourif
Grima Wormtongue, once a good Man of Rohan, became corrupted and twisted by the White Wizard, Saruman, in order to destroy and control King Theoden. As Theoden’s chief adviser, he stood in the prime position to control not only the king but Rohan as well. Dourif’s role wasn’t the largest in the series but it was one of the most complex and best carried out.
From tragic, stuttering Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to Zoso in Once Upon a Time, Brad Dourif rivals Vincent D’onofrio as the Human Chameleon. Much like D’Onofrio, Dourif happens to have the talents of an A-list actor without the recognition or real estate in the films that he’s in.
From Deadwood to Cult of Chucky to a whopping five films this year alone, his work is as prolific as ever, but we simply don’t hear much about him since his time at Saruman’s side.
14. Liv Tyler
There are so few women in the trilogy that it’s a wonder there is even one actress on this list. Of course, if you listen to Gimli’s stories, they may not be needed after all…
The lovely Liv Tyler was breathtaking and powerful as Arwen Undomiel, a role that was at least expanded to include some action. While fans may have been disappointed that it was her and not Glorfindel in the Frodo-saving scene, many appreciated the difference, small as it was.
Tyler has done some very cool movies since her Evenstar days, including The Incredible Hulk, and she was in some popular films like The Strangers and Reign Over Me, and last year we saw her in both Gunpowder and The Leftovers, which were both well-received, but given her star power we think she could be so much more prominently featured.
13. Billy Boyd
Perhaps the most vocal actor to voice his displeasure about being forgotten after his Lord of the Rings days is Billy Boyd, otherwise known as Peregrin Took, or Pip. The most naive (and to some, annoying) hobbit, Pip is often the source of comedic relief in the films, but Boyd’s comments about his experience are anything but. He’s stated that the cast wasn’t fairly paid for their work as well, which is much more troubling to consider. In an interview, Boyd famously stated that he had no money and that he acted in the film “for peanuts, and for food.”
Boyd hasn’t fallen off the radar completely; he continues to act in various TV, film and voice roles, from Master and Commander to The Witches of Oz. Most of these have not been given much notice, though.
12. Ian Holm
Best known as Bilbo Baggins these days, Ian Holm has not worked in the business since 2014 when he wore the tiny adventurer’s mantle one final time for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Given that the man is 86 years old, it’s no wonder why he’d want to retire from such a long and successful career!
Born in 1931, Holm’s first acting credit was in 1957. Since then, he’s won and been nominated for prestigious awards, including an Academy Award, and starred in the Royal Shakespeare Company.
From those who’ve seen The Wars of the Roses to Alien, The Borrowers to Hamlet, Holm is known to just about every generation. Given his rich, clear voice, it’s no surprise that as he grew older, many of Holm’s credits included mostly animated film and video game voice work, rather than starring roles.
11. Dominic Monaghan
Meriadoc Brandybuck is one of the most beloved characters in both the Lord of the Rings films and books, and while Dominic Monaghan had great success as the halfling, outside the trilogy he wasn’t as well-known. He has portrayed several television characters over the years, including Charlie Pace in several years of Lost, but most of his most recent roles haven’t been headliners by any means. He has done a couple of children’s programs, including the film Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism and some voice work on Sophia the First, and he has a couple of films coming out this year.
Has Monaghan been a bit typecast as a hobbit? While he may not top-billed in this year’s Radioflash or Waterlily Jaguar, he’s at least still making movies.
10. Sarah McLeod
Rosie Cotton may have been the girl that Samwise Gamgee dreamed of marrying, but she had no audible dialogue in the trilogy at all. An energetic halfling, she seemed everything a Hobbit should be and the adventures she had with her children and husband would have made for another interesting story.
Sarah McLeod had the pretty smile and perfect look to play the affable barmaid, but her roles have been few and far between since. Films like Skin & Bone and We’re Here to Help are among her short list of productions, as are TV shows Doves of War and Shortland Street. Her last appearance was in an episode of Auckland Daze in 2012. Prior to her Lord of the Rings days, she was in a few productions like A Twist in the Tale and Get Real.
9. Lawrence Makoare
There are very few people of color in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Lawrence Makoare was covered in Uruk-hai makeup so you couldn’t even see his face. If the trilogy were to be made today, we might have a much more diverse cast. Lurtz is best known for gleefully murdering Boromir before being struck down by Aragorn. Makoare also played General Gothmog, the ugliest Orc of all time, and the Witchking in The Return of the King.
Makoare had many roles following the movies but none were as high profile. He did play another similar character, Bolg, in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The Dead Lands, Marco Polo, and Tatau followed that, but he hasn’t acted since 2015. There have been plenty of fantasy roles he’d have done well in but perhaps he found a different calling.
8. Ali Astin
Not every little girl gets to be a hobbit, but Ali Astin had the cool opportunity to be her real dad’s hobbit-child in The Return of the King. The adorable kid grew up to be a lovely actress without many prospects. Astin has had two roles since her Lord of the Rings days – one of them last year – but neither have been well-received.
Astin had a role in the animated film Ribbit 11 years later as the voice of Princess and one more in last year’s Bad Kids of Crestview Academy. Both films did poorly with Rotten Tomatoes, with the former earning an audience score of just 23% and the latter a shocking 0%. Astin worked alongside her father in the latter film again. Hopefully the young actress will find a bit more luck nabbing roles in the future.
7. Henry Mortensen
The son of esteemed actor Hugo Mortensen, who played Aragorn in the trilogy, Henry Mortenson was a child actor known for roles in Crimson Tide, Floundering and Blue Tiger before he played a Rohan boy recruit in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers at age 14. Several cast members brought their children or other relatives along since the film required so many extras.
In the Return of the King, Mortenson was an Orc, but he didn’t have many roles as an actor after that. In 2009, six years following his Orc days, he had a role in the TV series Rise and Fall of Tuck Johnson, and the following year he was Box Boy Ted in the same-titled series, but he hasn’t acted in anything since.
6. Harry Sinclair
He’s directed more recently than he’s acted, but Harry Sinclair never found many roles to fill after his Lord of the Rings days. No one can forget his brief but intense portrayal of Isildur, the original owner of the One Ring after it was cut from Sauron’s hand. We all know that the One Ring cannot be owned but owns and destroys its bearer, sealing Isildur’s fate to perish and become reanimated as a Nazgul.
Sinclair has only been seen in two shorts since his Lord of the Rings days: Don’t Call It a Comeback in 2013 and The Call of Charlie in 2016. Most of his prior works were also shorts, but following his time in Mordor and beyond, you would think he would rise to bigger and better roles. He has also written, produced, and directed some works, including several episodes of 90210.
5. Bruce Hopkins (Gamling)
As a good Man of Rohan, Gamling, played by Bruce Hopkins, didn’t speak much but portrayed a steadfast and loyal soldier who was always ready to lay down his life. Hopkins looks every bit the part and theoretically should have went on to play more cool parts after he helped with the Battle for Middle-earth. Why isn’t he in Vikings?
Hopkins has had steady work since he wore the armor, but it hasn’t been as noticeable. Providing vocal talents for animated features like The Ten Commandments and video games like Heavenly Sword, Hopkins has been in several incarnations of the Power Rangers franchise, Under the Mountain, and Sleeper. Since projects like Find Me a Maori Bride and Ork Land, he hasn’t acted in a film, leaving the screen as of 2015.
4. Ian Hughes (Irolas)
While the role of Irolas isn’t one that’s well remembered by name, he’s one of the most memorable of the Men of Gondor. The character, played by Ian Hughes, was also a Minas Tirith officer who can be seen in Return of the King. He is best known for the scene where Faramir’s body is brought to his father. He’s also one of the most confused characters since his name is the same as another guard of Minas Tirith, proving that Tolkien understood that more than one person can have a name in the world, even if it is Middle-earth.
Hughes himself has had regular work since his time in Gondor, from the Power Rangers Ninja Steel TV show to The Devil’s Violinist, but nothing nearly as big as The Lord of the Rings.
3. Bruce Phillips (Grimbold)
New Zealander Bruce Phillips wasn’t a stranger to fantasy or action prior to his time with the Lord of the Rings crew. Prior to starring as Grimbold in The Return of the King and a Rohan soldier in The Two Towers, Phillips was in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as several different characters. Unlike many background characters, Phillips wasn’t an Orc but a commander of Rohan, a role that was slightly larger and at least recognized in the book.
The Lord of the Rings series is what he’s known for, but Phillips has also been seen in The Power Rangers TV shows, This is Not My Life, The Legend of the Seeker series, The Lovely Bones, and Shortland Street. He hasn’t been in any productions since 2016 and has no known in progress to report.
2. Stephen Ure (Orc Captain)
Australian actor Stephen Ure had roles in both The Two Towers and Return of the King. In the first, he was Grishnakh, an Orc captain from Barad-dûr who worked for Sauron, and in the second he was an Orc captain of Cirith Ungol known as Gorbag. Both costumes were equally hideous and it’s no wonder that the roles didn’t earn him opportunities elsewhere, since it was difficult to even see his face. Still, Ure can usually be found playing creepy creatures; he was Fimbal, among other characters, in The Hobbit films.
Outside Middle-earth, we’ve seen Ure in things like Ash vs. Evil Dead, Hounds, and the Spartacus TV series, but he’s not been in the spotlight nearly as much as some of the larger names.
1. Orlando Bloom (Legolas)
Legolas may have made plenty of hearts flutter with his intense gaze, long blond locks, and wicked skills with a bow, but Orlando Bloom hasn’t seen as much success outside Middle-earth. He’s no less attractive today than he ever was, and he enjoyed some success as the achingly sincere Will Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but he hasn’t really found his footing otherwise. He has some other movies under his belt, like Ned Kelly, Elizabethtown and Kingdom of Heaven, but none have reached nearly the fame that the Lord of the Rings films achieved.
Bloom has no projects out this year, but perhaps he will rise higher with his new series Carnival Row, which airs next year. The futuristic crime drama sounds very intriguing.
Have you followed the careers of any of these Lord of the Rings actors? Share your thoughts in the comments!