Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s)

I have to imagine that many, many readers of our site occupy an insane amount of time discussing with friends the casting of some iconic book or comic property for when it finally gets adapted for the big screen. My circle of friends and I would waste hours on my friends Steve and Jeff’s porch, drinking cheap beer and smoking… cigarettes, while trying to come up with our dream cast for various projects. By far the one we spent the most time on was The Lord of the Rings. We had this thing figured out… and the results of those nights are incorporated a good deal in this week’s Hypothetical Studio.

Filmmaking in the 1980s was much like the rest of the 80s – a study in gluttonous excess. We maxed out our credit cards; we bought boats, cars, and giant houses we didn’t need; we snorted seven pounds of cocaine a month (ok, not me, but coke was popular in the 80s, right?) and took the biggest and best of everything because the bigger and more obnoxious something was, the better it would be, yeah?

So it is with that in mind that we cast our The Lord of the Rings in the spirit of the 1980s.

With this cast and this story, you have to start off with Aragorn. Why start there? More on that later, but the main reason is because who can perfectly play Aragorn. The reason Frodo does not get top billing is because a real little person will have to be used. There is nothing wrong with that (it would in fact be closer to my idea of what a Halfling looks like), but there is only one semi familiar 80s little person of the right age and he does not have near the drawing power of our top billed cast.

One thing that many LOTR purists were upset about was the exclusion of Tom Bombidil in the aughts The Lord of the Rings. That is addressed in the 1980s version. As is the lack of any skin color but white. Quite possibly at the same time.

We also have pop idols, a creature effects master, knights, and several film icons. Strap in.

The Lord of the Rings (1989)

Directed by

Steven Spielberg

Story by

J.R.R. Tolkien
(novel “The Fellowship of the Ring”)

George Lucas (Screenplay)

(in credits order)
harrison ford200x200 thumb Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s) Aragorn Harrison Ford
connery200x200 thumb Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s) Gandalf the Grey Sean Connery
kilmer200x200 thumb Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s) Legolas Val Kilmer
eddiemurphy200x200 thumb Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s) Tom Bombidil Eddie Murphy
Jack Nicholson200x200 thumb Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s) Saruman Jack Nicholson
warwickdavies200x200 thumb Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s) Frodo Baggins Warwick Davis
davidbowie200x200 thumb Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s) Elrond David Bowie
peterdinklage200x200 thumb Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s) Samwise Gamgee Peter Dinklage*
KennyBaker200x200 thumb Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s) Bilbo Baggins Kenny Baker
frankoz200x200 thumb Hypothetical Studio: The Lord of the Rings (As Cast in the 1980s) Gollum Frank Oz

*The excellent Dinklage did not get his start until the early 90s, but he would have been 20 at the time of this hypothetical movie and thus perfect for the part of Samwise.

Aragorn. I know, right? Perfect. Kilmer could have also played the role, but there is no one that fits the bill like an in-his-prime Han Solo.

Gandalf is likewise obvious, yeah? Strap an 80s version of a wizard hat on Bond’s head and give him the chance to be at turns endearing and gruff. Perfect Connery. Michael Caine was also up for the role.

Kilmer side-steps living legend Harrison Ford and nails down the bad ass elf Legolas who is sure to be the huckleberry of a few poor orcs before it is all said and done.

Who is the biggest movie star of the latter 80s? Eddie Murphy. He’s here to bring some big budget comedy cheese to the role of the enigmatic and quirky Tom Bombidil.

Movie audiences of the 80s were likely not ready for a villain to be such an abstract construct as Saruman in the aughts LOTR. Therefore Saruman would have to be a real villain; someone Frodo and Gandalf** could go toe-to-toe with over a wonderfully bad FX Cracks of Doom. Who would be a great villain? Well, any number of people, but in the excess 80s it would have to be Jack – in a role he takes while turning down The Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman.

Who is the most famous little person actor of the 80s? Warwick Davis (Willow), of course. I think he would have made a hell of a Frodo anyway.

Elrond would have to be played in glammed up glory by David Bowie. I think I remember hearing he was actually up for this very part in the aughts LOTR. Hugo Weaving was great, but come on! Bowie!

Here we make the first real reach of our 80s casting. Peter Dinklage was a college acting student when this film was made, but we ended up giving him his first big break before The Station Agent. He’s an excellent actor and brought home the hardware for his portrayal of Samwise Gamgee.

Harrison Ford will feel right at home going on a hero’s quest (or sitting around in Rivendell) with Kenny Baker (R2D2, Star Wars franchise) as Bilbo. And Baker will get to stretch his acting chops in a big budget franchise using something other than beeps and squeaks.

Gollum might be the most obvious choice. It is hard to imagine a better voice and motion capture than Andy Serkis from the aughts version, but if we are going to talk practical creature effects and the 1980s, then we have to talk Frank Oz (wow, lots of Star Wars alums here. Maybe Lucas should direct?).

Director: Being made in the late 80s, this film was before the ad nauseam product placing Steven Spielberg who rapes movies today. A huge budget and huge ego actors need a director with the clout to handle the chore. The job is Spielberg’s.

**Give me a break. George Lucas wrote the script.

Thoughts? Bring it.

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