The debate may not end here, but another decision has been made: The Hollywood Reporter claims the plum role of Aragorn has been given to 26-year-old Irish actor Stuart Townsend.
Aragorn, AKA Strider, is the wandering ranger and king-in-waiting who assists the hobbit Frodo Baggins in his quest to destroy the all-powerful ring forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. J.R.R. Tolkien described Aragorn as a dark-haired and "weather-beaten" fellow with a "pale stern face and a pair of keen grey eyes." The casting challenge is obvious: As the story opens, Aragorn, heir to the fading royal house of a particularly long-lived race of men, is 85.
Frankly, we always saw an Irishman in the part, but probably one a wee bit longer in the tooth, like Gabriel Byrne. British actor Daniel Day-Lewis reportedly turned down the role, which will require 18 months of continuous shooting in New Zealand — the three movies in New Line's planned trilogy are being filmed back-to-back
Slowly, but surely, the impossible-to-cast fantasy film is matching actors to parts, including Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Iam Holm as Bilbo, Elijah Wood as Frodo, and Sean Astin as his faithful servant Sam. With the bulk of the budget, most likely going to special effects and that lengthy shooting schedule, more "name" actors seem unlikely.
Kate Winslet's name was floated to play Eowyn, a warrior woman (and the niece of a king) who falls in love with Aragorn. New Line exec Michael De Luca told TheOneRing.net that Winslet had passed on the project.
Although Townsend's not well known Stateside, those fortunate enough to have seen him in British films have known for a few years that he was someone to watch. In 1997's Resurrection Man, he mesmerizingly played a vicious real-life gang leader, while the same year he did an about-face as a shy conman-hacker in Shooting Fish, with Kate Beckinsale. In 1997, he also had a small role as one of Samantha Morton's lovers in Under the Skin.
Take our word for it: Townsend, who's dating indie actress Parker Posey, is the next Ewan McGregor.
Townsend appears next in Wonderland for director Michael Winterbottom; the fantasy epic Simon Magus, with fellow Rings man, Holm, Rutger Hauer, and Embeth Davidtz; and the comedy All About Adam with Kate Hudson.