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But he was cast very late, replacing original choice Stuart Townsend, who was fired by an unsatisfied Peter Jackson a day before filming started.
Mortensen’s 26-year-old son Henry – from his ex-wife, the American punk rock singer Exene Cervenka – who was a Tolkien fan, egged him on to do it, and even took a couple of uncredited roles on the shoot, turning up as an Orc in The Return of the King. Now, 14 years on, Mortensen has enough distance from the series to admit that the process of making it was more or less complete chaos.
Mortensen tends to play listeners – whether the laconic adventurer-king Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, or Nikolai, his Russian mobster in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises.“Also, Peter was always a geek in terms of technology but, once he had the means to do it, and the evolution of the technology really took off, he never looked back.In the first movie, yes, there’s Rivendell, and Mordor, but there’s sort of an organic quality to it, actors acting with each other, and real landscapes; it’s grittier.But he would have never been given the extra money to do those if the first one hadn’t been a huge success.
The second and third ones would have been straight to video.” Mortensen thinks – rightly – that The Fellowship of the Ring turned out the best of the three, perhaps largely because it was shot in one go.
With its in-demand cast (Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac co-star), Patricia Highsmith source novel, and the chic, summery setting of Sixties Greece and Turkey, it’s a film that couldn’t have been made without the precedent of Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley (1999), though it was shot on roughly a third of the budget. He was always saying that simple was best.” Mortensen sees Chester as an autodidact, a man who “consumes knowledge”, even though he’s a desperate fugitive, on the run from angry investors he defrauded in America.