The first The Lord of the Rings movie was released in 2001. Now, 17 years have passed and we'll show you how much the actors have changed since then!
This picture is solid evidence of how beautiful Liv Tyler looked during the shoot of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of the trilogy. Fun fact: Liv had never read any of the books when she was approached to appear in the film. She quickly studied up on Middle-earth lore, to the extent of even learning some Elvish.
After the final movie The Return of the King came out in 2003, Liv had some minor roles in a couple of independent films and starred in the box office hit The Stranger with Scott Speedman. Ever since 2014, she is part of the regular cast of the HBO show The Leftovers.
Viggo Mortensen plays the handsome human "Aragorn", chief of the Rangers of the North. He first introduces himself to the Hobbits as "Strider", keeping his real identity and lineage a secret. He is madly in love with the beautiful "Arwen" (Liv Tyler) but can’t be with her until he has taken his rightful place as the King of Gondor.
By now, the Danish-American actor is in his late fifties and still looks incredible. His last appearance was in the independent film Captain Fantastic, for which he received his second Best Actor nomination at the 89th Academy Awards. He was already nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for the film A Dangerous Method in 2011.
The Lord of the Rings made Elijah Wood into one of the most popular actors today. As "Frodo" he displayed his huge talent throughout all three movies - and convinced both the fans and the critics. Fun fact: Director Peter Jackson gave one of the rings used in the movies to both Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis as a gift when the shoot was finished. They both thought they had the only one.
Today Elijah Wood is still a successful actor and looks pretty much the same as several years ago. He reprised his role as "Frodo" for one last time in first few minutes of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. His other roles in recent years include the lead in the popular TV show "Wilfred" and in the Netflix feature film I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore.
Sean Astin played "Frodo's" gardener "Samwise Gamgee", who quickly becomes his best friend and most trusted companion. The loyal and devoted "Sam" is the only one, who dares to follow "Frodo" all the way to Mordor and ultimately to "the end of all things" inside the fiery depths of Mount Doom.
Would you have recognized him? After the successful The Lord of the Rings trilogy Sean was mainly seen in productions for TV. He also had a small part in the hit movie 50 First Dates alongside Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in 2004.
The role of "Meriadoc 'Merry' Brandybuck" brought him worldwide fame. Dominic Monaghan had loved The Lord of the Rings ever since he was a teenager - he had already read Tolkien's three-part novel by the time he was 13. Fun fact: Dominic was one of the first British actors cast for the trilogy and one of the tasks director Peter Jackson charged him with was to coach Elijah Wood and Sean Astin in the ways of British pub culture.
After The Lord of the Rings ended in 2003, Dominic Monaghan became part of the cast for the ABC hit show LOST. He played the part of "Charlie Pace" for all six seasons of the show, which became a worldwide phenomenon – just like The Lord of the Rings. Ever since 2012, Monaghan hosts Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, a wildlife documentary series commissioned by BBC America and Channel 5.
Billy Boyd in 2001. Boyd played "Peregrin 'Pippin' Took", best friend and also first cousin to "Merry Brandybuck", played by Dominic Monaghan. Fun fact: When "Pippin" is being hit with the apples after asking about second breakfast, it is Viggo Mortensen himself chucking the apples at his head. They had to shoot the scene 16 times to get it just right, and Billy says he believes Mortensen enjoyed himself immensely.
When The Lord of the Rings ended in 2003, Billy Boyd had a couple of small roles and cameos in a number of movies. The Scottish actor also went back to his acting roots and appeared in a couple of stage productions. In 2013, Boyd played Banquo in Shakespeare's Macbeth, at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, for instance.
When Orlando Bloom first played the character of the kind-hearted elf "Legolas", who is amazingly skilled with bow and arrow, he was only 24 years old. He had originally auditioned for the part of "Faramir" but director Peter Jackson thought Bloom would make a better elf. In the meantime, the handsome actor has – naturally – grown up quite a bit…
In 2003, right after he finished shooting the third The Lord of the Rings movie, Orlando Bloom appeared on the big screen as part of another blockbuster franchise. He starred as "Will Turner" in three consecutive Pirates of the Caribbean movies, alongside Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Geoffrey Rush. Paired with the fame he had already gathered through his role as "Legolas", Bloom became one of the most famous people in the business and was honored with his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2014.
Who could have played the grumpy and brave dwarf "Gimli" better than John Rhys-Davies did? As part of the original fellowship, John Rhys-Davies appeared in all movies of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His constant companion, although they are foes at first, is "Legolas" the kind-hearted elf played by Orlando Bloom. Fun fact: John might have played a dwarf in the films, but in real life, the actor is over 6 feet tall!
Although he is in his seventies by now, John Rhys-Davies hasn't changed at all! After the end of The Lord of the Rings franchise, he appeared in over 20 more productions for the big screen and had just as many appearances in series and movies for television.
In all three The Lord of the Rings movies, Hugo Weaving played the elf "Elrond", the Lord of Rivendell and one of the ancient elf-rulers in Middle Earth. Fun fact: David Bowie expressed interest in the role of Elrond, but director Peter Jackson stated: "to have a famous, beloved character and a famous star colliding is slightly uncomfortable."
Hugo was already a popular actor before he was cast as "Elrond", whom he portrayed for all three movies of the Hobbit franchise as well. From 1999 to 2003, Weaving appeared as "Agent Smith" in the Matrix trilogy. Later on, he lent his voice to the character of "Megatron" in the Transformers movies and he had a supporting role in the WWII epic Hacksaw Ridge with Andrew Garfield as the lead and Mel Gibson directing.
Cate Blanchett played "Galadriel", Lady of Lothlórien in The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies. Since this picture was taken in 2001, the blonde mother of four seems not to have aged at all. But see for yourself ...
Her career started in the early 1990s and since then Cate Blanchett has appeared in more than 40 television and film productions. In 2014 Blanchett won her second Oscar for her role in the Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine, after already winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for her portrayal of Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. Fun fact: To this day, she is the only actor to win an Oscar for portraying another Oscar-winning actor (Katherine Hepburn).
Sir Ian McKellen played the role of the wise and powerful wizard "Gandalf the Grey” (who later becomes "Gandalf the White") in both The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies. Fun fact: Sir Ian originally declined the role of "Gandalf" due to scheduling conflicts with an X-Men film. Thankfully, he managed to be part of the cast after all!
Aside from his tremendous work on the films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous books, McKellen has always been a stage performer and still is today, even in his late seventies. Many moviegoers also know him as "Magneto" from an array of X-Men films and he also lent his voice to "Cogsworth", the majordomo, who was cursed into a pendulum clock, for the live-action adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Sean Bean played "Boromir" of Gondor, a human sent by his father to Rivendell. Bean was only featured in The Fellowship of the Ring since his character dies at the end of the first film after valiantly defending the Hobbits from an onslaught of Orcs. Thanks to his effort, "Frodo" and "Samwise" manage to escape with the one ring, but "Boromir" is slain.
In 2011, Sean Bean had a leading role as "Eddard Stark" on the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which didn’t end too well for his character at the end of the tenth episode. His biggest role on the big screen – aside from The Lord of the Rings – was in James Bond – GoldenEye" (as 006) and in The Martian (2015).
For the second and third The Lord of the Rings films, David Wenham played the role of "Faramir", "Boromir’s" younger brother, who also hails from Gondor and becomes Captain of the White Tower upon his brother’s death.
After the success of the The Lord of the Rings films, David constantly worked as an actor on productions for both the big and the small screen. In 2014, he appeared on 300: Rise of an Empire and in 2016 he was part of the cast of the Oscar-nominated film Lion alongside Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman.
Throughout the second and the third films of the franchise, Australian actress Miranda Otto played "Éowyn”, sister to "Éomer" and the niece of King "Theoden" of Rohan, who raised her after her parents’ untimely death. Fun fact: Uma Thurman was also in consideration for the role!
Miranda Otto had a child in 2005 and ever since tried to reduce her work so she could spend time with her family at their home in Australia. Her most prominent roles after The Lord of the Rings include a part in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and the 2014 Indie The Homesman with Tommy Lee Jones. For the fifth season of Showtime’s Homeland, she portrayed the CIA’s Berlin station chief "Allison Carr".
The late Sir Christopher Lee (†2015) portrayed the evil and power-hungry wizard "Saruman", Lord of Isengard and Chief of the White Council, in all three The Lord of the Rings films. He was also part of the Star Wars franchise when he played "Count Dooku" in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy in 2002 and 2005.
The acting legend, who is, like his fellow thespian Sir Ian McKellen, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, died in May of 2015 after being admitted to the hospital with heart failure. Fun fact: Christopher Lee read The Lord of the Rings once a year until his death and had done so since the year it was published in 1954. Lee is is the only member of the cast and crew who has ever met J.R.R. Tolkien.