How A Viggo Mortensen Scene In Lord Of The Rings Saved The Trilogy

"The Lord of the Rings" remains one of the most influential fantasy film series to ever be put to screen. Most of that influence came from director Peter Jackson, who managed to translate J.R.R. Tolkien's novels to the silver screen in a way that appealed to fans of the novels and newcomers alike. Jackson was helped in part by perhaps one of the most solid ensemble casts of the 21st century, one of which convinced New Line Cinema of the quality of Jackson's work.

On a special edition of his YouTube show "Reunited Apart", which brings together the cast of pop culture films including "Ghostbusters" and "Back to the Future," Josh Gad held a reunion with the "Lord of the Rings" cast — including Viggo Mortensen, who played the Ranger and future king Aragorn. Mortensen discussed replacing Stuart Townsend the day before filming was supposed to begin, and how he was convinced to read the "Lord of the Rings" books thanks to his son, Henry.

"Well, I am grateful to Henry, although he is kind of a pain in the ass ... I was worried a bit. You want to contribute, so I was a little nervous. Then I started reading the book. I really liked it and I found some things that I could connect with. I was familiar with Nordic sagas and fairy tales. I've also read Celtic material and stuff, so it wasn't that unfamiliar."

The Turn of the Tide

Even though he brushed up on the source material, Mortensen was fairly relieved to learn that his first scene wouldn't involve any dialogue. Instead, Jackson wanted to film the scene where Aragorn fights off the malevolent Ringwraiths after their leader stabs Frodo Baggins with a cursed knife. This scene is pure fantasy-tinged adrenaline, as Aragorn charges at the Ringwraiths, deflecting sword strikes and slamming into them with his body.

"I didn't know what would be expected and how soon. Fortunately for me, the first things I had to do were physical, were nonverbal. There was sword fighting."

Jackson was thankful that he chose to film that particular scene, because it's what convinced New Line to fully back the "Lord of the Rings" films. As Jackson explained:

"We didn't have anybody, and then we had Viggo. So we were under strict orders that the second the first day's filming with Viggo was over, we had to dispatch the rushes to America. [The studio was] withholding the permission to decide whether we got the right guy or not. Luckily it was fire, wraiths, flames, and it blew them away."

The rest, as they say, is history. Mortensen even jokingly said he could have sunk the entire film franchise, but I doubt that; even in his lesser-known films like "Hidalgo" and "Eastern Promises," he manages to give performances that stand out.

The Hand of Fate

Looking back, it's hard to imagine anyone other than Mortensen in the role of Aragorn. He exudes charisma, nobility, and a hint of devil-may-care swagger — all elements that were part of Aragorn's characterization in the original "Lord of the Rings" novels. He also managed to make Aragorn's initial rejection and ultimate embrace of his kingly destiny one of the more interesting plotlines in the trilogy, which was an impressive feat, considering all the characters and storylines that had to be juggled across three different films.

"The Lord of the Rings" is about to undergo a renaissance of sorts, with "The Rings of Power" premiering later this year on Prime Video. The series is set during the Second Age of Tolkien's sweeping mythology, meaning that fans won't see many of the characters from the original trilogy. Here's hoping Prime takes a page from Jackson's book and swings for the fences — the streamer spent upwards of $1 million, making "The Rings of Power" the most expensive television series ever created, so it can definitely afford to step outside the box (or even buy the box).