A popular fantasy novel written by JRR Tolkien in 1954, The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) was brought to life on the big screen in the early 2000s by Peter Jackson, who directed each of the three films in the trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003). Each of these films grossed more than $870 million in global box office revenue, while The Return of the King generated in excess of $1.1 billion.
The epic fantasy trilogy stands out for its incredible attention to detail, including its oversized sets, armory of weapons, and impressive make-up and prosthetics. Its original score and picturesque panoramic shots of New Zealand landscapes also played a part in the franchise’s success. Moreover, LOTR had a talented cast of Hollywood actors, many of whom are Academy Award winners.
Below is a look at what five prominent actors in the trilogy have done since The Return of the King.
1. Sean Astin
Sean Astin, previously known as the titular character in the football film Rudy, transformed his career through his role as the beloved Samwise Gamgee in each of the three LOTR films. Astin recently recalled working with Jackson on an episode of Cinema Blend’s ReelBlend podcast and spoke to how the normally quiet director’s harsh criticism affected him during a particular scene.
“He came up to me at one point and he looked at me and he said, ‘I just didn’t believe that,’” Astin said. “Oh my God, he might as well have — it was like a Mortal Kombat death blow. It was like he ripped my hair off of my body, and my spine came out with [. . .] [But] it was, it was true. It was true that I was not invested, that I was out of it. I was out of the character. I was out of the mood. I was out of [. . .] I just wasn’t there.”
Astin has appeared in dozens of projects since LOTR. He has had recurring roles on TV series such as 24, The Strain, The Big Bang Theory, and Stranger Things. He has also starred in several mini-series and had credited roles in films including Charming the Hearts of Men (2020), Gloria Bell (2018), Swing State (2017), and The Final Season (2007).
2. Sean Bean
Sean Bean played Boromir in each of the three LOTR films, but those who haven’t seen the trilogy likely know him as Eddard “Ned” Stark in Game of Thrones. The patriarch of the Starks of Winterfell, Bean’s Ned Stark was known as a man of honor who was loyal to his friends and family.
However, his most notable moment in the series came at the end of the first season, when he was executed at the command of King Joffrey Lannister. This isn’t uncommon for Bean’s characters. As of 2014, he had 25 on-screen deaths which, according to Nerdist.com, ranked fourth among all actors behind John Hurt, Bela Lugosi, and Vincent Price.
Bean has also been in films including Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), Black Death (2010), and Age of Heroes (2011). Since Game of Thrones, he has had roles in Silent Hill: Revelation (2012), Jupiter Ascending (2015), and Dark River (2017).
3. Liv Tyler
Liv Tyler had her breakthrough performance in Armageddon (1998) and later played Arwen in the three LOTR films. Her first film role after that was opposite Ben Affleck in the Kevin Smith-directed Jersey Girl (2004).
Since then, Tyler has starred in The Strangers (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), and Wildling (2018). More recently, she has had recurring roles on notable TV series such as The Leftovers, Harlots, and 9–1–1: Lone Star.
4. Elijah Wood
Known as Frodo Baggins in the LOTR films, Elijah Wood reprised the iconic role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012). Between The Return of the King and this film, Wood voiced the character Mumble in Happy Feet (2006) and also had lead roles in films such as Sin City (2005), Day Zero (2007), and The Romantics (2010).
More recently, he held lead roles in the comedy series Wilfred and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Wood played a man with depression in the former and saw his neighbor’s dog as an adult man in a dog suit. He was nominated for Best Actor in a Series, Comedy or Musical, at the 2011 Satellite Awards.
5. Cate Blanchett
A two-time Oscar winner and seven-time nominee, Cate Blanchett portrayed Galadriel in each of the three LOTR films. Since The Return of the King, the Australian actress has starred in Babel (2006), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Cinderella (2015), and Ocean’s Eight (2018).
She also played Galadriel in all three films in The Hobbit trilogy. Blanchett won Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Blue Jasmine (2013) and was nominated for the award in 2016 for Carol (2015).