The role of Aragorn is arguably the most-well known performance of Viggo Mortensen's career, though he only came in at the last minute to replace original actor Stuart Townsend for Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, with co-star Dominic Monaghan reflecting on not only his shock at Townsend's departure, but his disappointment that he learned of the shakeup without having the opportunity to speak to the actor about it. He did, however, note that the training for the series was so intense that he and his fellow co-stars didn't have the luxury of the time to spend coping with the change to the project.
"We didn't get a chance to say bye to Stu,” Monaghan shared with Manchester Evening News. “He left very quickly. I think he was probably sad about how it turned out. 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.’"
He continued, "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. 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.'"
With this being more than 20 years ago, social media wasn't nearly what it is today, making it difficult for Monaghan to reach out to Townsend to find out what happened.
“We couldn't contact him. Email was very new at that point. He just disappeared," Monaghan expressed. “I saw him years later, and I've seen him here and there. Obviously it was a big blow for him but it was ruthless, we were working all the time, we had one day off a week. Our hours were ridiculous. We didn't have time to mourn anything you were desperately trying to learn lines and stay on top of it all."
The filmmakers would go on to admit that it was their mistake in casting Townsend for the part, as it was this revelation that caused the incident in the first place, with Townsend himself initially feeling frustrated by how things went down.0comments
"I was there rehearsing and training for two months, then was fired the day before filming began," Townsend recalled to Entertainment Weekly back in 2005. "After that I was told they wouldn't pay me because I was in breach of contract due to not having worked long enough. I had been having a rough time with them, so I was almost relieved to be leaving until they told me I wouldn't be paid. I have no good feelings for those people in charge, I really don't. The director wanted me and then apparently thought better of it because he really wanted someone 20 years older than me and completely different."
Amazon Studios is currently developing a TV series based on the mythology of the franchise.