Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Lord of the Rings: The BBC TV Series

We all love Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. Mostly. Apparently Christopher Tolkien isn't a fan, but he's also the closest living person to the work, so he justifiably has the strongest opinions about it.

But let's face it; Peter Jackson's movies, while very good, are not perfect. There's room for improvement, and believe it or not, the franchise in question is sixteen years old, and in many ways hasn't aged all that well. Amazon Studios is in the process of creating a TV series set in Middle-Earth in the years prior to the events of the novel, but I say, let's take a look at doing Rings as a modern-day, BBC Two television program. It can be three series long, one series for each book, and include numerous flashbacks to material from The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and the Appendices.

Sam Mendes, who executive-produced the BBC series The Hollow Crown (an adaptation of numerous Shakespeare histories), can produce this one, and this can be its cast.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Frodo
Frodo Baggins is a complicated character to cast, because there's a lot of disagreement over what he should look like. One thing is for sure; he's not a child, which is how a lot of modern "fans" (by which I mean people who only read the book because they saw the movies, or have only seen the movies) see him. He's 33 when the story starts, and I don't have an issue with that being the equivalent of 18 in Hobbit years (seeing as how he's just now "coming into his age", as the book says), I do not feel that casting a teenager (as Jackson did with Elijah Wood, all of 18 at the time) is the way to go. Wood was fine, but he was also wimpy and willowy, and Frodo is not those things. For that matter, Frodo is 50 years old for a majority of the story, even if the One Ring's influence prevents him from aging normally. Thus he should look young, but feel older. Wood looked and felt even younger than 18, in the opinion of many, myself included. Frodo needs to look like the one the other Hobbits look to for leadership, not the one that they feel the need to protect, and the actor needs to be able to communicate Frodo's strength. I want this to be a Frodo who, even as his life is draining away from him, shouts at the Ringwraiths "You shall have neither the Ring, nor me!" So I went with Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who is in his late twenties, but has a very youthful face, and one that lends itself to brooding on important matters. He usually plays the smart guy, the wise-beyond-his-years guy. And he'll kill it as Frodo.

Patrick Stewart as Gandalf
Gandalf is the role of a lifetime, and I feel one of the best-cast roles in Peter Jackson's films. Can anyone out-Gandalf Ian McKellen? The man absolutely became Gandalf in all our eyes, and for good reason. But I do not keep old cast members. I just can't bring myself to do so here. Back when Jackson was first putting his cast together, I wanted Patrick Stewart for the character, as Stewart has spent more than three decades now being the wise, powerful leader in all our eyes, and in all that time he didn't even age. Stewart will need a hairpiece, but McKellen used one, as well, even though he didn't go bald. I was concerned that Stewart might be too short, but he's not even an inch shorter than McKellen, so he'll be fine. And as McKellen's close friend, his casting is also appropriate. McKellen apparently wants to play Gandalf again, but even he would likely say "If Gandalf must be recast, I'm glad it's Pat."

Stephen Moyer as Aragorn
Aragorn Dunadana, son of Arathorn, King Elessar of Gondor, Descendent of Elendil, Last of the Blood of Numenor, might very well be my favorite character, and I agonized over who should play him. It took me a while to warm to Viggo Mortensen's portrayal, since I thought he looked too young and had too high a voice when I first saw the films. I have often thought that Aragorn should look like an older young man, if that makes any sense, one who could be mistaken for a young man until you look a little closer at his face. I wanted his voice to be lower, almost guttural when we first meet him and gradually becoming a strong, powerful voice of a king. As this will be a TV series, I didn't want him to be a famous movie actor, or I probably would have picked someone like Russell Crowe or Hugh Jackman (and wouldn't have been truly happy with either of them). My choice for TV is Stephen Moyer, a British actor who can do multiple accents, and at age 48 (with greying hair) still looks very strong and capable, but also has a world-weary look.

Allen Leech as Samwise Gamgee
Samwise "Sam" Gamgee (and by the way, Jackson, it's Gam-Gee, not Gamjee) is a major fan favorite and with good reason. He's one of the most noble characters in the book. A simple gardener and cook, Sam is probably the best picture of Christlike love in the tale. And no, I don't think he was in romantic love with Frodo, nor Frodo with him. I loved Sean Astin's portrayal of him, and was loath to go a different way, even though at the time I thought Sam was supposed to be a crusty older man, but this is wrong. He most likely is younger than Frodo, and at best is of an age with him, so he should be played by an actor who's somewhere in his thirties at the oldest. And I don't know why, but Sam has always made me think he should have an Irish accent, even though he comes from the same area as Frodo. Allen Leech is Irish, in his late thirties and even kinda looks like Sean Astin. He's my Sam.

George Rainsford as Merry Brandybuck

The other two Hobbits were a little harder because they're not as greatly described nor do they seem, at first, at least, to be all that distinct from each other. I've always thought of Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck to be the older and wiser of the two, and Peregrin "Pippin" Took to kind of look to Merry as an older brother. Pippin is the youngest, which is why I don't understand why he was played by the oldest actor of the four hobbits in the Jackson films. Pippin is very much a comic relief character, even in the book, and I have no problem with most of his actions being played for laughs. Merry should be a little more serious, at least, and I found a couple of younger British actors who look suitably Hobbit-like to play them. George Rainsford I confess I don't know much about, but I saw him briefly on TV and thought "he would
Darren Evans as Pippin Took
make a good Hobbit." Darren Evans, on the other hand, I know much about. A knobby-nosed comedian and singer, Evans is good at being dumb and little-kid cute, which Pippin needs to be, and he can sing, like Pippin does.

We'll keep going with the Fellowship for now, even if they don't show up in the story for a while (though there's no reason they couldn't in the TV series).

Jamie Campbell Bower as Legolas
Elves are always tricky because how do you do badass and beautiful in the same person? And do it for a whole race? Even Peter Jackson couldn't always make it happen. They'd either be too badass (Elrond) or too beautiful (almost all male background characters). Jamie Campbell Bower is a very pretty guy who has taken on some pretty badass roles.He does fall more into pretty than badass, but hopefully his actions can define him, plus he has that piercing stare. The guy practically is an elf. If he'd been of the right age the first time around, Jackson probably would have considered it. And if we're going with a guy who pretty much is an elf for Legolas, why not have a guy who pretty much is a dwarf for Gimli?
Julian Seager as Gimli
Julian Seager is not well known but look at the guy. He practically walked out of Tolkien's Legendarium. He's also not as old as John Rhys-Davies, and to be honest I always wondered why they went so old with Gimli in the movies. But that wasn't the biggest problem; the bigger problem was that he was turned into comic relief, meaning in scenes where we had to take him seriously, we couldn't. Seager could play him like a Viking or Celtic warrior, a boisterous bruiser but a cunning, intelligent and proud one.

Then, there's Boromir. Definitely a base-breaker of a character, is he a good guy gone bad or was he bad to begin with and it just took the Ring's influence to bring it out of him? That's up to the reader, I suppose, but there's little doubt how Boromir was perceived, prior to his fall. He was everyone's hero. The local quarterback who won every game. Everybody loves Boromir, and I think the way he should be
Kieran Bew as Boromir
portrayed is as a man who thinks he's the hero of the tale. His every action from his introduction to his later fall should be shown as a man who thinks he's the only one who knows the right thing to do, and that when songs are sung of this day, they'll be about him. So I wanted my actor to look like the hero of the story. He should be attractive, powerfully built and magnetic, yet with some darkness to him. For that, I chose Kieren Bew.

That's the fellowship done and now let's move on to where the story starts; Hobbiton. There are a few memorable characters who come out of that place, and we'll actually be spending time with many of them this time out.

Peter Kay as Bilbo Baggins
Making this a TV series instead of a movie makes it possible to develop some of the characters that don't appear or don't get much time in the movie versions. Tolkienites can practically tell you the birth year of a given background character, so it will feel good to actually spend time in and around Hobbiton and the Shire getting to know these folks a bit better. The first, well, it's gotta be the first Ringbearer himself, Bilbo Baggins! Now, something that I took issue with in Jackson's films is that he chose a man well into his 60's to play Bilbo and yet kept the idea that Bilbo hadn't aged since finding the Ring; Gandalf pointing out "you haven't aged a day" and Bilbo keeping his speech about being "well-preserved": "I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread". All of this coming from the mouth of a man who was nearing 70 and looked it. Plus it created a plot hole; why, if Bilbo hasn't aged a day, does he look so much younger in the Hobbit movies? Bilbo, in this story, should look like a respectable Hobbit of 50ish years, meaning somewhere in his late 30's to early 40's for a human, and 44-year old Peter Kay has just the cherubic charm to be our Bilbo. He can do serious scenes as well, but man, does he ever look like a Hobbit!

Bill Paterson as Gaffer Gamgee
Ted Sandyman and Hamfast "Gaffer" Gamgee are actually the first speaking characters in the novel. They were (kind of), in the movies as well, but you'd have to be paying close attention to notice. I picked Bill Paterson for the Gaffer because he looks like an old Hobbit in real life. He's a "cute old man", and that's what the Gaffer should be. For Sandyman, I wanted someone we dislike right off the bat, so Boardwalk Empire's Stephen Graham seemed to fit the bill. Who better to make you dislike they right off than Al Capone?
Stephen Graham as Ted Sandyman

Kate Dickie as Lobelia Sackville-Baggins
Then there are the real "villains" of Hobbiton, the Sackville-Bagginses. Again, these are characters that get kinda glossed over in the movies but have their own subplot in the book. Considering a section near the end of the book, we've got to include them. They should also look like thoroughly miserable people, so I've picked some
Andrew Tiernan as Otho Sackville-Baggins
unpleasant-looking actors for the three of them, starting with Kate Dickie as Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, Andrew Tiernan as her husband Otho and Thomas Turgoose as their son, Lotho.

Thomas Turgoose as Lotho Sackville-Baggins
Matt Lucas as Fredegar Bolger
Later, as Frodo and Sam attempt to leave Hobbiton, they briefly stop in Buckland to get supplies, and that's when they discover that three of their friends know the whole story; Merry Brandybuck, Pippin Took and Fredegar "Fatty" Bolger. Fatty doesn't show up in the movie, and in fact the whole idea that Frodo and Sam go to Buckland first (with Pippin just along for the ride, or so Frodo thinks) is condensed into Frodo and Sam meeting Merry and Pippin on the road. Again, as this is a TV series, I'd like to include Fatty Bolger, and I think this might be a cool opporunity for a cameo by a reasonably well-known actor. I'd like Fatty to be a jolly, apple-cheeked man, and who better for that than Matt Lucas?

Hannah Murray as Rosie Cotton
Ian Gelder as Farmer Maggot
Sam's true love, Rosie Cotton, doesn't get much to say or do, but as the very last scene of the book is Sam returning home to his new family, I think she should be included and I chose Hannah Murray to play her.

The last Hobbit we meet before leaving Hobbiton is Farmer Maggot, who warns of strange folk on the road. He's a stereotypical grumpy old man, not much to him at all, really, but he could also be a stand-in for Farmer Cotton later, as they really are very similar characters. Ian Gelder is my choice for him.

The Ringwraiths don't get much to say in the story, and they're never seen save the one scene where Frodo puts on the Ring in their presence, but they make a huge impact, so I'd like to offer actor John
John Lebar as the Nazgul
Lebar for the role of all the Nazgul, including the Witch King. A freakishly tall (and freaky-looking) actor, Lebar looks like someone's nightmare scarecrow come to life, and he would very easily terrify in the Black Rider's long black cloaks. He might not even need make-up for the one scene where you see his face!

Gandalf, meanwhile, meets a member of his Order, Radagast the Brown, who tells him that the Nazgul have ridden out again, and influences Gandalf to visit Saruman. Radagast was left out of the movies, then shoe-horned into The Hobbit, where he was portrayed as a befuddled old man. Radagast is friends with all birds and beasts, and I picture him as a thin man with long, greying brown hair. I picked David Bradley for him.
David Bradley as Radagast

And now comes a controversial part; a part that was utterly left out of the films and many feel it was for good reason. Tom Bombadil is greatly loved by many Tolkienites, and greatly despised by others. Personally, I was more than okay with him being removed from the movies because he does little to further the plot, but in a TV show, you can slow down and have a character who only appears for one or two episodes.
Bill Bailey as Tom Bombadil

Tom's a merry old fellow who loves to sing and dance, and has a long beard and bright clothing. Many feel this was a role that Robin Williams could have played in his sleep, and he probably could have, but unfortunately, he's not available at the moment. So in his stead, musical comedian Bill Bailey could do it. He knows physical comedy, and he's able to sing and dance. What else do you need to be Tom Bombadil?

Tom's wife is "the river's daughter", Goldberry, who is a stunningly beautiful young-looking woman with golden hair. I chose Annabelle Wallis because she's pretty and blonde, and has a softness and warmth to her that is vital for the role of Goldberry.
Annabelle Wallis as Goldberry

Stephen Marcus as Barliman Butterbur
The Nazgul chase the Hobbits to Bree, where they are met, not by Gandalf as they thought but an absent-minded innkeeper named Barliman Butterbur (and eventually by Aragorn). Butterbur is a fun and funny character that didn't get much to do in the movies. I'd like to see his role expanded to full in the series, where he will be played by Stephen Marcus.

But not everyone they meet in Bree is a friend. Bill Ferny knows something is up with the Hobbits, and he sees a situation he could take advantage of. We don't see the fruits of that until the end of the story, and Bill Ferny is a character easy to write out, but not here, oh no. Jamie Foreman will be the
Jamie Foreman as Bill Ferny
swarthy, untrustworthy Bill Ferny.

Once past Bree, the Hobbits now have Aragorn's protection against the Nazgul, but ultimately it's not enough, and Frodo is stabbed by the Witch-King.

Ben Lamb as Glorfindel
With Frodo weakening, and the Nazgul closing in, they need to get to Elrond's house yesterday, and on foot they won't make it. Showing up just in time is legendary elf Glorfindel, a pretty cool character who unfortunately has a tendency to get written out of adaptations. He's a very powerful, very well-known elvish warrior, so well-known in fact that the reason he's not chosen to join the Fellowship is that he'd be too obvious and unable to be hidden. I picked Ben Lamb to play him.

Kevin R. McNally as Gloin
At last they will arrive at the last homely house of Elrond Halfelven in Rivendell, where Frodo is healed and many councils are held, and we learn Aragorn's true identity, Bilbo shows up again, as does Gloin from The Hobbit, and we meet Legolas, Gimli and Boromir. We've already gone over them, so no need to do so again, but Gloin will be played by everyone's favorite pirate, Kevin R. McNally.

While Legolas's father, Thranduil, King of the Elves of Mirkwood, does not appear in this story, he has a sizable role in The Hobbit, and will be a good person to include in flashbacks, as well as showing him choosing to send Legolas to the Council of Elrond in his stead. I chose actor Joseph Morgan to play Thranduil.

Joseph Morgan as Thranduil
Meanwhile, there's Elrond and his host to consider. Elrond is Half-Elven, meaning he probably should look like an elf, but it's okay if he's aged a bit. For what it's worth, that's what Jackson did, too. I picked Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who is in his 40's, but doesn't look it, and can convey a sense of being in charge even while acting against Patrick Stewart.

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Elrond
Elrond's daughter, and Aragorn's true love, Arwen Undomiel, is a very important character even if she literally has just one line in the book. The movie expanded her character dramatically, but I'd prefer to use the Appendices to flesh out her character, letting us see her and Aragorn's first meeting, and such, though I don't mind giving her more to say and do in Rivendell once the council gets going. I just don't think we need to keep cutting back to Rivendell so Arwen can whine about not being with Aragorn, and Elrond can actively try to break them up (what?). In this case, I chose a rising actress who has a film career already because she's just so perfect. Her name is Anya Taylor-Joy.

Anya Taylor-Joy as Arwen
Erestor and Galdor are small enough characters I'm not sure they warrant a casting. Same with Elladan and Elrohir, Elrond's sons, who do appear but don't really do or say much. However, during the council, several stories are told and one of them is Gandalf, relating that the head of his Order, the "wise" wizard Saruman the White, has betrayed them and is now a puppet of Sauron. Christopher Lee played the role in the film, and while he was excellent and there's no replacing him, I decided to go a different way with Saruman. I decided that Saruman should appear to be as wise as he is called. After all, Gandalf trusts him until his conversation with him, and for that matter, even after many of his later actions, King Theoden of Rohan almost is persuaded to trust him solely by how easily Saruman's voice and presence can inspire trust. So I picked someone less obviously evil than Christopher Lee's take on the role; David Warner.

David Warner as Saruman
Another tale is the capture of Gollum by the enemy. My take on Gollum is that he should look like a skeleton with skin on it, and as impressive as the mo-cap work was on him in Jackson's films, I would like a mix of mo-cap and practical make-up for this series, especially since it will be on TV and mo-cap is expensive.

Gollum need not talk like a cartoon character, either. I picture him speaking in a voice horribly aged, and all of this leads me to the only other actor well known for always being covered in either make-up or mo-cap: Doug Jones. Jones is incredibly lean, and would probably only need mo-cap for Gollum's body and limbs, meaning only wide-shots. He might even be able to play Smeagol, considering that Smeagol is only Hobbit-like, not an actual Hobbit like Jackson decided to make him. While he's Smeagol, though, I'd like some face make-up to make him a bit more full in the face. Jones is one of the only non-Brits that I've cast, but he's a natural for accents. He'll make an excellent Gollum.
Doug Jones as Gollum

The next few chapters are mostly their journeys up Caradhras, then through Moria, and in both cases they don't meet anyone who warrants casting.

Their journey out of Moria leads them to Mirkwood, and the hidden Elven city of Lothorien. There they meet Haldir, the Elven marchwarden of Lothlorien, who reluctantly leads them to Caras Galadhon, the seat of the Lord and Lady of Lothlorien, Celeborn and Galadriel.

Brendan Patricks as Haldir
Haldir doesn't get a ton of page time, but he will in the series as the journey through and out of Lothlorien will likely take up two or even three episodes. I chose Brendan Patricks to play him.

Galadriel is one of the most important female characters in the story, an austere yet beautiful elf who has been on Middle-Earth since before it was round, since before the sun and moon existed, since the elves chiefly lived in Valinor. In fact, she and Cirdan the Shipwright are probably the only elves alive during the time of The Lord of the Rings who saw Valinor. So the actress chosen for her will need to be young and beautiful but able to communicate age and great wisdom. Michelle Dockery (who will need a blonde wig) is in her early 30's but has this commanding voice and great poise. She carries
Michelle Dockery as Galadriel
herself like royalty, and if you want austere, you need look no further. There's no question she'll make an excellent Galadriel.

Her husband Celeborn was harder to cast because he's supposed to look "aged", but something tells me that means "for an elf". He's about the same age as Galadriel but he was one of the elves of Doriath, who remained Middle-Earth and never went to Valinor despite it being the only place in Arda where there was anything approaching sunlight (the early elves lived solely under stars).

I think we can communicate Celeborn's aged look with a silver wig and casting an actor who's a bit older but not too old.

Elliot Cowan as Celeborn
At 41, but still looking youthful, Elliot Cowan could make a successful Celeborn.

That's Season One, and the conclusion of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Now we come to The Two Towers which begins with the freshly broken Fellowship heading out their separate ways. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas witness Boromir's last moments, and then encounter the Riders of Rohan, led by King Theoden's nephew, Eomer.

We all know by now that Gandalf, who appears to die at the conclusion of The Fellowship of the Ring, returns, having been "sent back" until his task is complete. I don't see why we couldn't show him in the halls of Mandos, met by Namo, Lord of Mandos and the Valar who
Cillian Murphy as Mandos
guards the souls of those who have left the mortal plain and judges their worthiness and whether or not they might need to be sent back. He did that with Glorfindel, for that matter. I would like Cillian Murphy to play him, as he would also play Mandos (which is how Namo is usually addressed) in a tie-in Silmarillion movie.

Eomer and his riders have been exiled from Edoras, the King's hall, because King Theoden has fallen under the influence of the evil Grima Wormtongue, a pawn of Saruman, and has been filling his ears with all sorts of false council, including hints that Eomer is a traitor. When Eomer denounces Wormtongue, it convinces Theoden that Wormtongue was right, so
Jefferson Hall as Eomer
Eomer and his riders now patrol the outer lands of Rohan, battling Orcs. Rohirrim are usually fair skinned and fair haired, and Eomer is the very picture of a man of Rohan. He will be played by Jefferson Hall.

Eomer later meets up with the three of them again, after they have reunited with Gandalf and they lead the three of them to Edoras, where they are met by the guard at the gate, Hama, another character who probably is very small, but on TV will have more to do, as he's also a memorable part of the battle of Helm's Deep. I always pictured Hama as much older but still very strong, and for that I've chosen Scandanavian actor Rune Temte, one of the only other non-Brits in the cast, who just looks so Rohirrim, and undoubtedly looks like a hearty warrior.
Rune Temte as Hama

Hama leads them into the throne room, where they meet King Theoden, his niece (and Eomer's sister) Eowyn, and of course, Grima Wormtongue.

Eowyn, like her brother, is blonde, and very attractive, but should also be someone who looks hardy, ready to take on anything. I confess, I wasn't entirely happy with Miranda Otto in the role; she looked a bit old, and far too frail, or at least in some scenes. I'll admit she pulled off the "I am no man!" scene, but somehow she wasn't very convincing before that. I picked Maude Hirst, because she's pretty but also kinda looks like she could take you on, if you made her have to.

Maude Hirst as Eowyn
Then there's Theoden. When we first meet him, he looks like a frail old man, but this is because of Wormtongue, who has spent the last little while essentially convincing Theoden that he is decrepit and ready to die.

Once Gandalf removes the influence of Wormtongue, Theoden is suddenly much healthier and very strong. His warriors are amazed, and as soon as he calls for the Eorlingas to ride forth again, they're ready to right at that moment.

Anthony Stewart Head as Theoden
Theoden is an old man, there's no doubt about that, but one that still looks like he's not someone to mess with. I picked Anthony Stewart Head to play him, as he's in his 60's but still looks very powerful. His hair should be silver grey in this version, to show his age and also hide that Head is not a blonde man.

Philip Philmar as Grima Wormtongue
Grima Wormtongue is a character you need to hate on sight. He's a stooped little creep who looks revolting. I picked an actor who looks like a goblin to me. He's not very well known but he tends to play creepy characters. His name is Philip Philmar.

By now you're probably wondering where my Treebeard is.

The answer is; his casting is kinda immaterial. Jackson even reused his Gimli for Treebeard's voice, and I confess, if I had to pick a voice for Treebeard, he'd probably sound softer and less weezy. I'd probably pick Ronald Pickup, and a picture of him doesn't matter as it's his voice I'd be picking him for.

Ugluk and Grishnakh, the two Orc captains who take Merry and Pippin on their way to Isengard, are given enough character in the books that I'd like to expand their roles a bit
Ian Whyte as Grishnakh
for the TV series.

Grishnakh is an Orc of Mordor, a twisted version of elves of old, while Ugluk is one of the Uruk-Hai, a new breed of Orc created by Saruman as an evil version of men. I picture the Uruk-Hai as being much broader and perhaps not as tall, while Mordor Orcs are taller, more slender and wraith-like. So Grisnhakh will be played by Ian Whyte, a seven-foot tall actor (with a crazy deep voice) who is slender, like an elf, while Ugluk will be played by Spencer Wildling, an actor probably best known for "playing" Darth Vader in Rogue One. He's not quite seven feet tall but he's pretty big. In both
Spencer Wildling as Ugluk
photos I've chosen to show them next to people of average height so you can see how big they are.

Robert Pugh as Gamling
Next up is the Battle of Helm's Deep, and there's a ton of characters all over the place there, including the ones we already know, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Eomer, Theoden, Hama, etc., but also included are two characters who present opportunities to expand the roles for TV. The first is an older warrior named Gamling, who was in the movie but potrayed as the King's Steward, and he wasn't much older than maybe his early 40's. I like the idea of old guys who can still kick your ass, and I picked Robert Pugh to play Gamling.

Richard Aston as Erkenbrand
Legendary warrior of Rohan, Erkenbrand, gets only a few lines in the book, but a lot of buildup. I felt like I needed to include him, and I wanted a man of good stature to play him, so I picked Richard Ashton, another guy who's well over 6 feet.

After the battle of Helm's Deep, Gandalf and the victorious Rohirrim head to Isengard where they find Treebeard and the Ents have laid siege to it and trapped Saruman and Wormtongue in the tower. This is where they leave them, as Saruman's power has been taken from him by Gandalf, and he will live out the rest of his days in misery, or so they all think. The group of them head to Gondor, but meanwhile we cut over and spend time with Frodo and Sam, the final link of the Fellowship, as they climb their way through the Emyn Muil, capturing Gollum when he tries to take the Ring and force him to guide them to the Black Gate. When Gollum tells them he knows a secret way into Mordor, this leads the three of them to try and sneak through Ithilien, where they are captured by Boromir's younger brother, Faramir, who initially wants to take them to Osgiliath for judgement, but
Tom Hopper as Faramir
eventually understands the importance of their quest and lets them go, warning them that Gollum's "secret path" is actually a heavily guarded fortress kept by the Nazgul. Faramir is the greatest of the good, one of the few human characters who realizes how dangerous the Ring is, and the exact opposite of his brother in all the right ways. He doesn't seek glory, he seeks to right wrongs. He doesn't think he's the hero, he just does what's right, and becomes a true hero as a result. If that doesn't sound much like the Faramir in the movies, that's because he isn't. For some reason, Jackson decided to focus on his need for his father's love and completely eschewed Faramir's wisdom and purity. I wanted him to be played by a guy who communicates the same sort of power that Kieren Bew does as Boromir, but looks more pure and Angelic. I picked Tom Hopper.

Charles Dance as Denethor
If you can believe it, we're now at The Return of the King, with Gandalf and Pippin, who left Rohan headed for Gondor to roust them against the Orcs. There they find the Steward of Gondor, Denethor, isn't exactly receptive to the idea. Denethor, who is also father to Boromir and Faramir, should look stern and commanding, but in a bad way. He's a good man gone bad with the need to secure power, and the corruption of Sauron. Charles Dance is the man for this job.

Alec Newman as Beregond
Beregond, a soldier of Gondor who looks after Pippin while Gandalf tries to reason with Denethor, is not present in Jackson's films, but he gets so much to do in the books that he has to be included here. I chose Alec Newman, who looks very noble and fierce.

Richard Brake as Halbarad
Meanwhile, Aragorn has his own quest, with Legolas and Gimli in tow, to the Paths of the Dead to inlist the Oathbreakers of old who swore allegiance to Isildur, but forsook their oaths and were thus made to live on in a kind of living death until they could fulfill their oath. On their way to the Paths, the three are met by the Grey Company (who are left out of the movies), including Halbarad, a fellow Dunedan of the blood of Numenor, and an old friend of Aragorn. He will be played by Richard Brake, who has a suitable ranger-like look to him.

Toby Stephens as Imrahil
This next character is another who was left out of the films, but I like this character and I want to include him; Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, a people very close in kin to the elves, and thus, taller, stronger and without beards. I wanted Imrahil to look elvish but still human, so I picked an actor with visible age lines who otherwise looks pretty elvish: Toby Stephens.

And the final role I need to cast is one that doesn't have much to do but he's got a lot of import in Middle-Earth's history. Cirdan the Shipwright, probably the oldest living elf left outside of Valinor, is the one who captains the ship that takes Gandalf, Bilbo and Frodo to the Grey Havens. Cirdan is the only elf who has visibly aged, and has a beard, as he is in the third cycle of his life. It was hard to cast this essentially walk-on role, because what actor can convey the timeless beauty of the elves but also be appropriately aged?

Matt Smith as Cirdan
In the end I went with Matt Smith, who is relatively well-known, but can also play Cirdan in a film of The Silmarillion.
And that's the series, all the roles that merit casting consideration.

I will do another post with more roles from The Hobbit and another about a big screen adaptation of The Silmarillion in due course.