NEW YORK – Having saved the world on screen, Frodo (search) and friends are now navigating a more treacherous territory than Middle Earth: Hollywood.
The stars of the “Lord of the Rings” (search) trilogy are shedding their dusty duds and trying to make careers for themselves beyond their “Rings” roles. It's difficult for actors to break out of a stereotype, so, it’s with some anxiety and elation that fans watch Viggo Mortensen (search), Elijah Wood (search), Sean Astin (search), Orlando Bloom (search) and company play new big-screen parts.
“It’s a bit of a bittersweet feeling,” said Michael Regina, editor of fan Web site, TheOneRing.net. “Seeing them move off and do different things is sort of exciting because these people were virtual unknowns before the movie. And it’s sad because fans know they won’t see them as their ‘Lord of the Rings’ characters.”
This month, Mortensen debuted his first post-"Rings" feature with the cowboy adventure “Hidalgo.” Astin had a cameo role in “50 First Dates” in February and last year Bloom proved his star-power in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” (search)
This Friday, Wood, the arguable lead in the “Rings” ensemble, has a supporting role in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” While Wood is featured in the promotions along with Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey (search), his screen time is limited and there are no close ups of his famous wide eyes.
The question is, will “Rings” fans follow Wood and friends to the theaters — and will they remain loyal when the thespians break the molds they’re famous for?
“You’ll really find 'Lord of the Rings' fans are devoted — to the books, the films, the actors,” said Regina. “I think they really don’t care if they make a good or bad film. They’ll comment on it and talk about it endlessly, but they won’t abandon their love for the characters.”
Bonnie Shumofsky, a talent agent at Abrams Artists Agency, said breaking out of a well-known role comes down to talent — something she said the “Rings” stars have in abundance.
“They’re talented enough actors that they can regroup themselves and take over another role,” she said. “Even though the movies were so powerful, I don’t think they can’t move ahead. Look at Harrison Ford (search) with ‘Star Wars.’ People don’t look at him and say ‘It’s Han Solo (search).’”
Ford’s leap from sci-fi action hero to leading-man status in films like "Witness" is the success story actors who get pigeonholed aspire to re-create. On the dark side, Mark Hamill (search), who played Luke Skywalker (search) in the “Star Wars” movies, is still best known for wielding a lightsaber.
Shumofsky suggested that the “Rings” stars choose their next few roles carefully and pay attention to quality more than the quantity of lines or zeroes on the end of the paycheck.
"It's about taking a good part. If you take a good part, whether you have three lines or are the star, [you’ll do well]."
With “Hidalgo” Mortensen went from his tough, rugged role as Aragorn (search) in “Rings” to a tough, rugged cowboy. Critics called him stiff and the film came in No. 3 at the box office, but Regina said fans will still follow Mortensen and the other heartthrobs.
"Fans identify with different actors and have various crushes on actors so going to see them [in another movie] is exciting,” he said. “Orlando Bloom fans in particular are really, really hardcore.”
Bloom was barely out of acting school when he was cast in as Legolas, the arrow-wielding elf in “Rings.” And from the looks of it, his star will continue to rise. He has six more movies in the works, including “Pirates of the Caribbean 2" and a role alongside Brad Pitt (search) in “Troy.”
As for Wood, in an interview with Foxnews.com, the actor was optimistic about his career and undaunted by his association with the hairy Hobbit (search) Frodo.
“I think as long as I portray myself in a different light constantly in movies that are somewhat successful — because obviously people have to see them — that I’ll be able to get away from the Frodo’s shadow,” he said. “At the same time, I’m also so proud of Frodo … We’ll always be associated with these films because these films are bigger than any of us.”
As for the legions of fans, Regina said they’ll have to come to terms with letting the characters go.
“They have to give them up to rest that of Hollywood. It’s like giving up your baby to go to school or to get married.”