January 4, 2004

Recently Homie and I have embarked on a journey of discovery into the past (and current) projects of all the Lord of the Rings cast members. Who are these people? What led them to Middle-Earth? And what else can we watch them in now that their quest has been completed? These are all pressing questions. We attempted to ascertain a direction for our journey by watching the behind the scenes commentary on Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers. While useful in determining that yes, Orlando Bloom was indeed plucked directly out of drama school for his role as Legolas, it was somewhat misleading in terms of actors like Brad Dourif. (I see you scratching your head. Brad Dourif played Grima Wormtongue in Two Towers.) The way the other actors talked about Brad Dourif, I expected him to be an actor of Christopher Lee stature. Let's just say... he's not. Clearly relying solely on the commentary wasn't going to cut it. We resorted to more drastic measures in our search. We turned to the venerable online institution of the IMDb. The Internet Movie Database. Join us on our journey, won't you?

Elijah Wood
Everybody knows Elijah Wood's name. "Oh yeah, Elijah Wood! He's that actor. From, y'know, that movie. About that guy." How much had he done prior to becoming the essence of Frodo in LOTR? Nothing short of twenty-one films. Which, considering he was about eighteen when he got the role of Frodo, is a seriously impressive achievement. What do you know him from? The War with Kevin Costner, The Faculty with Josh Hartnett, Flipper, The Ice Storm, The Witness, North, Deep Impact... take your pick. Of these I have now watched The Ice Storm, North, The Faculty, and The War. The War is probably my favorite. It's a beautifully understated little movie and he's perfect in it. The thing that strikes you about every performance he does, regardless of the film, is that he's talented. He's incredibly versatile and knows the value of subtle realism. What is he up to now? Well, Ash Wednesday is not his strongest performance but the character is definitely a departure. And he's just been announced in The Yank, a movie about 'soccer hooliganism'.

Sean Astin
There is a subtext to the Sean Astin thing that takes me back to my formative teenage crush years. Does anybody remember Andy from The Facts of Life? Little blonde Andy? He was played by Mackenzie Astin. Yes, BROTHER to Sean. This endears Sean to me in a way that really nothing else can. Especially if you watch the cast commentaries in which he is relentlessly 'knowledgable' (Homie's very kind word to describe it) and makes you itch to fast forward. Sean has been in Rudy, Toy Soldiers (with the other most annoying actor on the planet, Wil Wheaton), The Goonies, and Courage Under Fire among others. Face it, you know who he is. You've seen him everywhere and just never put it all together until Samwise Gamgee came along. Up next for Sean is Fifty First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

Dominic Monaghan
Meriadoc Brandybuck is my favorite hobbit. Yes, I know the story's about Frodo and I also know that to most people Merry and Pippin are interchangeable. But not to me. As played by Dom, Merry is easily the sexiest hobbit and his sudden journey into discovery of a world of problems outside his own is the one I can most identify with. What else has Dom done? Not much unless you're an avid UK television watcher. In which case he'd already be famous to you for his roles in Hetty Wainthropp Investigates and the film Monsignor Renard . In 2003 he starred in a short film called An Insomniac's Nightmare which by all online accounts he's riveting in. Up next for Dom is Spivs and The Purifiers, both UK films. Start demanding better distribution for international films at your local cineplex now, okay? And in the meantime there's always Merry.

Billy Boyd
Peregrin Took is the hobbit most mistaken for Merry. Let me clear it all up for you. Pippin, aka Billy Boyd, is the one who sings that wrenching song while Denethor feasts as his son Faramir is riding off to certain death. Merry, aka Dominic Monaghan, is the one riding into battle with Eowyn. Now that we're all clear, Billy Boyd is also the one who holds his own against the fearsome talents of Russell Crowe in this year's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Homie and I just saw this tonight and while Billy isn't the lead, he's got a solid and gutsy role that is nothing like Pippin. His character in Master and Commander is sure of himself, tough and stoic, set into his place with skill. It's marvelous to see Billy, well, TALL and of a disparate nature to that of Pippin's. He's got talent to spare. Leading up to LOTR he was in all UK films, Urban Ghost Story and The Soldier's Leap among them. Here's hoping he gets more widely distributed along with Dom.

Orlando Bloom
You'd have to have been living under a rock the past three years to not know who Orlando Bloom ("Orli" on the commentary tracks) is. He's the Cinderella story of LOTR. Plucked out of school for his role as Legolas, he is now poised on the brink of superstardom and Teen Beat world domination. He played blacksmith-who-gets-the-girl Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean alongside Johnny Depp. He just finished filming prince-who-steals-the-girl Paris in this year's Troy alongside Brad Pitt. He is now filming Haven about a crime committed in the Cayman Islands with Bill Paxton and Gabriel Byrne, and is set to start filming on Kingdom of Heaven about a blacksmith who stands against the crusades as directed by superstarmaker Ridley Scott. And just announced, as though all this isn't enough, is Pirates of the Caribbean 2. What did he do prior to LOTR? Hopefully slept. Because he's not getting much rest now. Oh, that and contributed his beauty and talent to a little film called Black Hawk Down. Perhaps you've heard of it?

Keep your eye on every one of these guys. They weren't chosen simply for their looks and charm, you know. They'll all blow you away with their talent.

Part Two tomorrow. I know you'll be on the edge of your seats.

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