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What If Jake Gyllenhaal Was Frodo Baggins?

Gordon Lipton

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New Line Cinema

What if Jake Gyllenhaal, not Elijah Wood played the role of Frodo Baggins? Would it have been for the better? Would it have been worse?

I’ve taken a look at a handful of disappointing movies. I also took a look at how those movies could have been better. Most recently, I took a look at what would have happened if Al Pacino played Han Solo instead of Harrison Ford. I investigated the implications for American cinema had those roles switched. The results were not pretty. It is safe to say that casting Harrison Ford ultimately saved quite a bit of cinematic history.

This time, I’m looking at a similar “What If?” situation with regards to one of the lead roles in another classic film trilogy. However, unlike the earlier Star Wars example – in which the role of Han Solo was cast perfectly and made the franchise better – I am going to look today at an example in which a role was cast…not quite as perfectly. A role that didn’t overtly harm the series, but didn’t add anything either. That’s right: I’m going to take a look at some of the acting choices in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Specifically, I will focus in on the One Choice (sorry for the pun) that could turn a great franchise into a legendary one.

So get ready to make the long trek to Mount Doom, Tolkien fans, and let’s investigate…

The Setup: The Excellent Lord of the Rings trilogy and the one flaw

There were a lot of things to love about the Lord of the Rings (hereafter LOTR) movies of the early 2000s. All three movies earned widespread critical acclaim. The three instalments earned Rotten Tomatoes’ scores of 91% (Fellowship of the Ring), 95% (The Two Towers), and 93% (Return of the King). All three movies find themselves in the Top 15 on IMDB’s Top 250, with Return of the King landing at #7 all-time. I have my own feelings about these rankings of course. For me, there is no way the Return of the King is better than movies like Pulp Fiction or Fight Club or The Matrix. But that’s a debate for another day – but there is no denying the films’ quality. Most famously, Return of the King entered into a three-way tie for the most Academy Awards for any one movie with 11 (tying Ben Hur and Titanic).

Also, the LOTR series triggered a revival in the fantasy genre. The critical and commercial success of the LOTR series proved that fantasy was not a niche market. Mainstream audiences were willing to watch movies based on fantasy or science fiction. The LOTR movies therefore paved the way for more mainstream fantasy content like the indomitable Game of Thrones. And of course, the LOTR movies proved that modern audiences could handle three-hour long epics without getting lost.

However, there was one area at which that LOTR did not excel. That area, and the One Flaw (sorry again for another pun), was the acting.

Acting

Not that everyone involved was bad at acting, of course. But many “big name” casting choices seem to have been made to boost the franchise’s marketability. Those choices affected the quality of the series to a degree. Much like the Star Wars franchise that I looked at last time, having a “no-name” cast for the LOTR series may have yielded a net positive. Casting lesser-known actors may have allowed viewers to focus on the story itself. Indeed, some of the lesser-known cast members (Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, etc.) went on to have their careers launched into the stratosphere as a result of the franchise’s success.

But while some actors were cast effectively, that was not always the case. Actors like Sean Astin (Sam), John Rhys-Davies (Gimli), Christopher Lee (Saruman), and especially Andy Serkis (Gollum) were excellent in their roles. They blended into the characters and didn’t draw too much attention away from the story. Some were more in the middle, with their casting choices being more open to debate (Ian McKellan as Gandalf). Then some were Liv Tyler as Arwen.

Some, of course, were Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins.

What If Jake Gyllenhaal Was Cast as Frodo Baggins?

When you are casting a new franchise, it’s important to make sure you pick the right people for the roles in question. When you do, you can not only create a massively profitable movie franchise but also launch the careers of new stars. Look what Star Wars did for Harrison Ford. Look what The Hunger Games did for Jennifer Lawrence and, to some degree, both Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. On the flip side, the botched casting decisions in Suicide Squad rendered a potential profit goldmine dead on arrival.

It is true that the LOTR franchise had enough quality acting talent to counteract the dead weight. However, Elijah Wood being cast as Frodo was not a good decision. I know that some people agree with me about this, and some people don’t. But in my eyes, his performance as Frodo prevented the LOTR franchise from truly achieving the pinnacle of greatness.

As Frodo, Elijah Wood’s job was to embody a character whose whole story arc revolved around him being innocent and pure. Frodo was a reluctant hero who had to be carried (sometimes literally) by his supporting cast. This is a difficult role to pull off for even the best actors in the most iconic roles (i.e. Hamlet).

Performing the role of Frodo is a delicate highwire act. You have to teeter between being wholesome and pure, embodying the hero’s journey. Then you also need to try and steer away from being grating and obnoxious whenever possible. You also need to try and not be useless while everyone else does your job for you.

Let’s just say that Elijah Wood didn’t exactly walk that highwire without falling off. Unless of course, your idea of enjoyment is watching someone stare sadly into the camera over and over again for 9 hours.

It could’ve been different

There could have been a different version of Frodo than the one we saw. One of the most prominent actors that were also considered for the role of Frodo Baggins was Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal made it far enough in the process to earn an audition with director Peter Jackson. Suffice it to say, things did not go well.

But what if it had gone well? Gyllenhaal was not exactly a big star at the time. The casting of Wood made a bit more sense in the moment. Wood’s CV had a little more weight to it with leading roles in movies like North, The Good Son, Flipper, Radio Flyer, and Deep Impact. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, didn’t become a breakout star until he was cast in October Sky and Donnie Darko. Both of which came out around the same time as The Fellowship of the Ring.

However, as I noted previously about LOTR and other franchises, having a relatively unknown but talented actor in such a prominent role could have been a big help. Gyllenhaal’s acting ability is quite a bit better than Wood’s. Gyllenhaal has a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Wood has never been nominated for an Oscar. Had the more talented Gyllenhaal won the role of Frodo, it is possible that the film gives us yet another breakout star like Mortensen and Bloom. Also, Gyllenhaal may have garnered an Oscar nomination or even a win in an acting category. In doing so, it is possible that Return of the King would have broken the record for most Academy Award wins.

Impact

Now, I understand that swapping Gyllenhaal for Wood may not have had the seismic impact that I’m predicting here. After all, while I found Elijah Wood’s performance to be grating and unsympathetic, it’s not like he was actively terrible in the role (unlike, say, Liv Tyler). He didn’t torpedo the franchise like what happened in Suicide Squad. He was an OK hand who did an OK (at best) job. However, Gyllenhaal could have added gravitas to the role by doing a good job.

And perhaps Gyllenhaal’s lack of experience would have worked against him. Perhaps Gyllenhaal would have been overwhelmed by the role. If so, Gyllenhaal’s potential performance may have negatively affected the LOTR franchise. This as opposed to Wood’s performance which just left a bit too much on the table.

But what can’t be ignored is the ripple effect that this casting switch would have had for both actors’ careers had it happened. And that leads us to…

The Aftermath

What Happens to Jake Gyllenhaal’s and Elijah Wood’s Careers?

Even though Jake Gyllenhaal didn’t land the role of Frodo, it’s fair to say his career has ended up going pretty well for him. Becoming a star via the criminally underrated October Sky and the cult favourite Donnie Darko. He’s been a mainstay in Hollywood casting decisions in both serious roles (Brokeback Mountain) and more humorous and over-the-top ones (Spider-Man: Far From Home). Elijah Wood’s acting career petered out over the years for various reasons.

But what if Jake Gyllenhaal had landed the role of Frodo Baggins while also starring in October Sky and Donnie Darko? The combination of those three very different roles would have shown Hollywood that he was an actor who could attain critical success and draw huge numbers at the box office. Maybe in this scenario, the Academy has no choice but to give him the Oscar for Brokeback Mountain. Maybe he turns into Christopher Nolan’s first choice for the role of Batman in Batman Begins. Perhaps he becomes one of the only actors in movie history to carry two critically and commercially successful franchises (along with Harrison Ford, of course).

What about Elijah?

Similarly, one of the reasons that Elijah Wood disappeared from the public eye was because he didn’t want to be typecast as Frodo. This meant potentially less work for him in the long run. If he doesn’t get the role of Frodo, perhaps Wood’s career continues on what was a strong early run for him. In a strange way, perhaps Elijah Wood not getting the role of Frodo would have helped his long-term acting career while hurting him in the short term.

It’s all fun to conjecture, but in the end, the LOTR franchise was fine in both scenarios. Wood didn’t hurt the franchise’s ability to earn money. Gyllenhaal’s career still took off even with LOTR on his docket. But who knows what might have happened had the roles been switched?

Thanks for reading, my head hurts now after all that rewriting of movie history, I’m going for a nap.


Thanks for reading our article about what would have happened if Jake Gyllenhaal became Frodo Baggins. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out more of our Star Wars Al Pacino ‘What If’ article HERE.

Read IMDB information on Jake Gyllenhaal HERE.

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    Virgen Cervoni

    December 8, 2020 at 8:12 am

    i love this greatest article

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Movie News

The Good, The Bad And The Classic

Sarah Casserley

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Star From Disney Plus

Disney Plus Star image
Disney Plus

Disney Plus introduced Star to the service a little while ago now with loads of highlights. We’re sure, like us, you’ve had a good old delve into the catalogue and watched some of your faves. But, just in case you’ve missed anything, we have put together a little guide on what’s good to get stuck into. Also what’s bad and could do with being swiped past, and the classic must-see TV series and films that you probably didn’t even realise were there.

So, when you find yourself looking for something to watch on a Friday evening or binge for a couple of weeks, don’t scroll endlessly, just take a look at our guide of Disney Plus Star recommendations.


The Good

These are the films and series that have been released within the last 10 years, which you need to watch or should at least be on your ‘to watch’ list.

Series on Disney Plus Star

Atlanta (2016 – Present)

If you haven’t watched this series yet, why not? The creative and talented Donald Glover heads up the show as the main character ‘Earn’, and on the writing credits too (among 6 others, including his brother Stephen Glover), in this funny, gritty and realistic series which follows a rapper ‘Paper Boy’ and his manager Earn (Glover) as they navigate the rap business. If you have watched the show before, you may want to re-watch for a recap as season 3 has been promised to us very soon.

9-1-1 (2018 – Present)

This isn’t just any emergency service drama, this series covers the lives of several Los Angeles first responders: police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and dispatchers. It also has some big names involved, including Angela Bassett and, later in the series, Jennifer Love Hewitt. For some reason though, there’s only two of the four seasons of 9-1-1 on Disney Plus Star so far, but it’s well worth a watch and we’re sure the other two seasons should be along soon.

Doll Face (2019 – Present)

By the title alone, and the fact that it’s a weekly release, it initially looked like this series was set around a stereotypical break up and was destined for the bad list. However, the witty script, amazing female actors and relatable storyline made me put this series firmly within the good pile as I can’t wait to watch more. Kat Dennings takes the lead in the series and really brings to life upcoming writer Jordan Weiss’ story of female friendships after a breakup.

Films on Disney Plus Star

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

This beautiful coming of age story, based on a book with the same name, is a great watch for all ages, not just teens. Be ready for oodles of romance, as well as teary and heart-warming moments, as you follow two teens affected by cancer as they set off on a journey of discovery.

The Favourite (2018)

We love a period drama, and this quirky look at the reign of Queen Anne is no exception. With starring roles from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Nicholas Hoult, it’s no wonder The Favourite had 336 nominations in award season and 182 wins. It’s definitely one of the best films from the last 5 years on Disney Plus Star.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

There are some examples coming up in these lists that give sequels a bad name, however, Deadpool 2 isn’t one of them. If you were putting off watching this one because of the sequel curse, don’t, it’s just as good – if not better – than the first. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is back as the foul-mouthed superhero and, this time, he brings some new friends: Domino (Zazie Beetz), Fire Fist (Julian Dennison) and Weasel (T.J. Miller) among others.


The Bad

There’s not as many on this ‘bad’ list as Star has done a pretty good job with their chosen titles. However, like any service, there are always a few bad eggs in our opinion… This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch these, it’s more of a warning that there may be better things to press play on.

Series on Disney Plus Star

Lost (2004 – 2010)

To be completely honest here, the first two seasons of Lost are very entertaining and interesting to watch, as you follow several people who try to survive a plane crash and have to adapt to life on a strange island. But, by the middle of season three, things start to get a little confusing and we found ourselves getting lost (pun intended) in the plot until the final sixth season, only to be hit with a heavily reported disappointing end… even worse than some people’s feelings about Game Of Thrones. So, we recommendation delving into some of the other series rather than this one.

24: Legacy (2017)

Trying to build another series from an established series can be very hit or miss – and this one was a huge miss. So much so that Fox axed it just after one series.

It takes on the same format as the original 24 series, where one season is just one day, however, this time they are trying to stop a terrorist attack. The format just doesn’t work with this storyline and you lose a lot of momentum and excitement, plus the acting just isn’t the best.

Films on Disney Plus Star

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Just like building another series off a series, sequels can also be tricky beasts… some are good, some are bad and, when it follows an absolute classic like ‘Independence Day’, it needs to be amazing. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite live up to the legacy of the first film; I mean, not even ‘Hunger Games’ Liam Hemsworth couldn’t get this to match up with the original. But it is still entertaining, so if you do decide to watch this one, just do so with caution.


The Classic

As you have probably already noticed there are some absolute classics on Disney Plus Star, so this is going to be the longest list, full of series that you can binge from start to finish and films that stand the test of time and can be re-watched repeatedly. Most of these titles don’t need much explanation as you’ll have already watched or heard about them, but you might not have spotted them yet on Disney Plus Star as some were buried deep in the archives.

Series on Disney Plus Star

X Files (1993 – 2001)

If you were born in the 90s or 00s, this one may have gone under your radar; however, once you watch the first season full of aliens, wired going ons and the brilliantly disjointed relationship of FBI agents, conspiracy theorist Fox Mulder and realist Dana Scully, you won’t want to stop watching. Granted some of the special effects are a little dated and unbelievable, but you will soon forget about that as you get sucked into the narrative.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2002)

I know, I know, it’s hard to think there are people out there that haven’t watched a single vampire slaying, kick-ass, sci-fi loaded episode… but there is. If you are one of those people, what are you waiting for? Every single episode is here wating for you to binge. If you don’t fancy delving into the full thing, I would recommend at least taking a peek at the seventh episode of the sixth series (Once More, with Feeling: Buffy the Musical).

24 (2001 – 2014)

Before Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) burst on our screens in 2001, this kind of format for a series had never been attempted before and it just worked, so much so it ran for 9 seasons. It may seem odd at first, as each series is just one day, but you really do get sucked in.

Grey’s Anatomy (2005 – 2018)

Within its almost 13 years of being on air, this series has offered every heart-warming and breath-holding moment you need from a hospital-based drama. This would be a perfect series to start if you want something that will last you a while.

Sons of Anarchy (2008 – 2014)

Bikes, leather and action: what’s not to like? This series ran for a glorious 7 seasons, and within these episodes, there is storyline upon storyline that will keep you hooked and wanting to know more about the motorcycle club that straddles the line between legal and illegal.

Films on Disney Plus Star

(We’re pretty sure you will have watched most of these films, but they are well worth a re-watch)

Planet of the Apes (1968)

The film that started them all. Since the release of this film in 1968, there have been seven more sequels and remakes of the original sci-fi movie, two of which you can also watch on Disney Plus Star: Planet Of the Apes (2001) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).

Jewel of the Nile (1985)

It could possibly be that the countless TV showings over the have passed you by, but if you’ve not seen Jewel of the Nile, you should definitely give it a go. Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito are fantastic in this pure 80s romantic action comedy.

Cocktail (1988)

Sticking within the 80s romantic comedy realm, you’ve also got Cocktail, which is full of love ultimatums, with a dash of cheese. Come on, you know you want to watch a young Tom Cruise at work.

The Fly (1986)

One name – Jeff Goldblum. Watch it.

Pretty Woman (1990)

We were just as excited as the first time we watched it when we saw this classic on the service. To not watch this again would be a big mistake. HUGE.

Toys (1992)

This wonderfully wacky story by Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson comes alive with the help of one of the best comedic actors of all time, Robin Williams, alongside the wonderful Joan Cusack and, bizarrely, LL Cool J.

What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)

Whether you love Tina Turner’s music or not, it does not matter. This is one of the most interesting and inspirational biographical movies that you will ever watch. Word of warning, the incredible Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishburne are so great at their roles that some of the more sensitive scenes are very realistic.

Braveheart (1995)

With any new service, there are glitches, and we found one! Whilst watching this absolute classic a few weeks ago, about two and a half hours into the film the screen when to the small screen format as if the credits had come up, making it difficult to watch the last part of the film. However, when we went to finish the film off a week later the glitch had been fixed and you can now watch the whole film without interruption… FREEDOM!

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)

We all know that when it comes to film, Baz Luhrmann is a genius and he doesn’t disappoint with this abstract take on the story. It’s worth watching for the soundtrack alone.

Independence Day (1996)

90s Will Smith doing what he did best: lots of running, fighting and shouting – need I say more? Oh yes, you can also watch another one of his masterpieces, Enemy of the State (1998) on this service too.

Con Air (1997)

‘Put the bunny back in the box’ and sit down and watch this classic… we all know Nicholas Cage films can be a little unpredictable, but this film is definitely a hit, especially as he is joined by other legends of the screen, including John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, John Cusack and Ving Rhames.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Well if it’s at our fingertips, why not watch this film for the 56th time… this year.


So, there you have it, these are some of our highlights and must-miss titles from Disney Plus Star. Are there any that we missed? If so, comment below and let us know what category they belong in.


Check out the top 10 hidden gems in the other Disney Plus feeds HERE.

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