In the last post, I listed the first half of the Top 10
. I want to re-emphasize that these are not necessarily the Top 10 performances
(though many are). I'm sure there's already plenty of disagreement on numbers 5 - 10. But again, this is all subjective. Don't cheat and scroll down to the end!
So here we go with 1 - 5...#5...
I have to be honest. Before the films, I never really liked Boromir as a character all that much. Notwithstanding his repentance for trying to take the Ring from Frodo, I found him untrustworthy and a little arrogant right from his introduction at the Council of Elrond. The character as written - to me - lacked depth. Sean Bean completely changed my perception of Boromir in "The Fellowship of the Ring". Bean made him more likeable and, while maintaining the character's proud nature, he allowed me to sympathize with him. While there is no doubt that Bean's Boromir was just as determined to persuade the other members of the Fellowship to ultimately go to Minas Tirith, he seemed reluctant to do so by force until Frodo rejected his counsel at Amon Hen when he finally snapped. Up until that point, I felt that Boromir was dedicated to Frodo's protection as much as any of the others. He even seemed to have a soft spot for Merry and Pippin. When Boromir died in the book, I felt no real sense of loss and was actually a little relieved to have the danger of his presence removed from the dynamic. But because Sean Bean allowed me to connect so strongly to his Boromir, I was deeply saddened by his death.
Originally, Jackson had cast actor Stuart Townsend in this role. But at the last minute Jackson and Co. realized that they'd made an error. Townsend just didn't have the gravitas for the role. Not to mention the fact that, at the time, he was barely in his late twenties. Aragorn, son of Arathorn, is supposed to be 87 in Numenorean years. Luckily for Jackson, Mortensen accepted the role at the prodding of his son Henry who was a big fan of the books. Viggo had never read them, but he completely immersed himself in the role - even going so far as to carry around his sword everywhere he went. Mortensen is an accomplished actor who plays Aragorn as an "everyman", worn and world-weary. Some have complained about his portrayal, saying he seemed too wishy-washy and reluctant to assume his birthright. But the many years of carrying the burden of this responsibility (as well as his isolation from the one he loved), made him a troubled character. He had a lot of time to dwell on the fact that his actions would determine the fate of Middle-Earth. Fans already knew of Aragorn's remarkable lineage and the exceptional Numenorean blood that gave him his nobility. But Mortensen's performance revealed how the character's remarkable courage and true heroic nature came from his heart. And the man really knows how to wield a sword!
The part of Eowyn was expanded in the film version of The Lord of the Rings and Peter Jackson needed someone who could not only be feisty, charming and vulnerable but also an actress that had the discipline to handle the physical demands of the role. In the books, Eowyn is mostly sad and sullen. She regrets her responsibility as "caretaker" of Edoras in Theoden's absence and longs to take up arms to defend her people. But Otto exudes an inner strength for Eowyn that was a bit lacking in the books. It's a tough job being one of only two major female characters in this story (and playing the more active one as well). But Miranda Otto's talents made Eowyn a vital part of every scene she was in. She was no wilting flower, that's for sure.
as Samwise Gamgee
Like Boromir, the character of Sam was always hard for me to like all that much. Even though his instincts about Gollum were correct, his disposition through most of "The Two Towers" was kind of cranky and irritable. Astin did a great job of conveying Sam's inherent innocence and optimism, as well as his steadfast dedication to Frodo. Astin lobbied Jackson hard for the part, even going so far as to increase his girth to be more physically like what the director had in mind. I believe that Jackson's giving him the part was one of the most important casting decisions he made. When the time came for the Academy Award nominations of February 2004, the absence of Sean Astin's name among "Best Supporting Actor" was a glaring error. His performance was - in my opinion - one of the best in the entire saga. Go back and watch the scenes in Mordor, particularly at the Pass of Cirith Ungol and on the side of Mount Doom. You can't help but be moved.
and the #1 Top Casting Choice for Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings is...
Sir Ian McKellan
This really shouldn't come as much of a surprise as Gandalf is, of course, my favorite character. Frankly, if this performance couldn't win me over, I would have had a hard time with the rest of it. When I was a kid, my first exposure to Tolkien was the Rankin/Bass cartoon of "The Hobbit" and John Huston's voice became the template for Gandalf. When Jackson's film project was announced, I couldn't imagine who could possibly take on this role to my satisfaction. But McKellan is Gandalf, hands down. In my reading experiences, I always preferred the Grey Wizard to the White. The first Gandalf was more kindly and self-deprecating. After his transformation into the White Wizard, Gandalf became more stern and business-like. But then he had to be, considering the greater responsibility that had been placed on his shoulders. McKellen seemed to be able to retain some of the gentler elements of Gandalf the Grey while still projecting the authority and self-confidence of his new persona. I appreciated that. Sir Ian has so claimed this character that if they ever get around to filming "The Hobbit", his reprisal of this role is critical if it's going to succeed.
There you have it. I'm sure I'll get a full round of criticism for leave out this actor or that actor. I'd like to point out that Andy Serkis deserves honorable mention for his contribution to the Gollum/Smeagol character. I have my reasons for leaving him out that no doubt many of you will take exception to. The focus here was on the actors and actresses themselves. While Gollum could not have been properly brought to the screen without Andy Serkis, the fact is that there was so much more in addition to his performance that went into that character. Literally hundreds of the good folks at Weta Workshop played at least an equal part in bringing Gollum to life. It just seemed to me to be an apples and oranges comparison throwing him into the mix.
Now if I were to do a Top Ten Performances
list, Andy Serkis would definitely be among them.
But that's my list with all my reasons. Not to take away from the rest of the ensemble, but if I had to force-rank them, this is what you'd get.