Aragorn is one of the most important characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and director Peter Jackson initially offered the role to a few well-known stars before casting Stuart Townsend. As history attests, things didn't work out, with Townsend being replaced just days before filming began. The role eventually went to Viggo Mortensen – only after Daniel Day-Lewis declined Jackson a second time – and the actor is now irrevocably associated with the character.
In an interview with Manchester Evening News, Dominic Monaghan – who played Merry – recalled finding out about Aragorn recasting, saying it came as a surprise to the cast. They were told that Townsend would no longer be working on Lord of the Rings, and the crew wouldn't tell them why at the time. Monaghan mentioned there wasn’t even time to say goodbye to Townsend as everything happened so fast.
“He left very quickly. I think he was probably sad about how it turned out," he said. "I obviously can't speak for him but we were on set and we were coming towards the end of week one and the producer Barrie Osborne had said to the four hobbits, 'Can you just wait around on wrap because Peter and I want to talk to you about something.' And in my naivety I just thought they were going to say we'd had a great week, we love what we're seeing, love you guys, have a great weekend blah blah blah. And unfortunately, they said Stuart has left the project."
"We were all stunned, I didn't think we could get fired at that point, I thought you were in... but it wasn't the case," Monaghan continued. "And Sean [Astin] said, ‘Well has he left the project or has he been fired?' And I think they were trying to protect Stuart as much as they could. They just said 'we will let Stuart tell you that, but he's no longer with us'. We couldn't contact him. Email was very new at that point. He just disappeared."
During pre-production, Jackson began to doubt Townsend's ability to play Aragorn because of the actor's youth. Unfortunately for Townsend, he had to deal with another recasting a few years later when he was replaced as Fandral in Kenneth Branagh's Thor for unspecified creative differences. Townsend has been on other projects since, including the ABC thriller Betrayal and starred in the second season of Salem as Dr. Samuel Wainwright.
For Mortensen, his role in Lord of the Rings allowed the actor to take center stage and bring a new layer to the trilogy, and ultimately propelled the actor to a new level of stardom. He was recently nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Green Book, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy is moving from movies to television series over at Amazon Prime. The Lord of the Rings TV show's first season doesn’t have a confirmed release date just yet but is currently filming.