Movie Reviews

Viggo Mortensen’s Real-Life Injury Made It Into ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’

Actors know that accidents happen while filming, but some movies seem to have a surplus of bad luck. The Lord of the Rings trilogy saw numerous injuries before the legendary journey was complete. The cast suffered broken bones, dislocations, and numerous cuts and bruises. One unlucky cast member had more than his fair share of serious injuries while filming the second installment of the series, however. 

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ continued the sweeping epic fantasy

Viggo Mortensen at the premiere of 'Thirteen Lives'.
Viggo Mortensen | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Peter Jackson tackled the project of adapting Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, into a live-action film trilogy. Prior to Jackson’s films, the complete story had only two film adaptations — both animated. 

In 2001, Jackson’s first installment hit the big screen. The Fellowship of the Ring was a feast for the eyes, with sweeping cinematography, haunting music, and extraordinary visuals that immersed the entire audience in a journey through Middle Earth. The Two Towers brought viewers right into the action, with several memorable battle scenes. Jackson finished the story with The Return of the King, completing an unforgettable trilogy.

All three films had star-studded casts. Hollywood veterans Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee took up the roles of wizards Gandalf and Saruman. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin played the heroic hobbits Frodo and Samwise. Other acting greats included Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, and Viggo Mortensen. 

The Lord of the Rings follows the hobbits’ journey to Mordor to destroy “The One Ring” — an enchanted ring that was so powerful it caused unrest and war among many in Middle Earth. The journey is extremely dangerous, so the hobbits travel with a band of protectors including a wizard, an elf, a dwarf, and human warriors. The films are fraught with danger, terrifying monsters, epic battles, and exciting action. 

Viggo Mortensen’s reaction to a real injury was so good it made the final cut

As you can imagine, bringing a story like The Lord of the Rings to life is a difficult task. The movies were filmed on location in New Zealand, so the cast was working in the wild and dealing with natural elements and unexpected weather changes. Many action scenes were also very intense, and can become dangerous even if a stunt double is being used. Sometimes, actors are hurt when filming even the most docile of scenes. 

There is one scene in The Two Towers when Viggo Mortensen’s character, Aragorn, is frantically searching for his missing hobbit friends after they were separated during a battle. As Aragorn is sifting his way through the carnage, he comes upon a pile of burned bodies and believes his friends are gone. In his fury at losing his closest friends, he kicks a helmet — which is when Mortensen suffered a painful injury.

According to CBR, the scene was filmed several times to get it just right. On the final take, Mortensen kicked the helmet with such force that he broke his toe. His anguished cry from the pain was so genuine, Jackson decided to leave it in the final cut of the film. 

That wasn’t the only injury to plague Mortensen during the filming of the ‘LOTR’ trilogy

Mortensen’s toe wasn’t his only injury while making The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Two Towers was especially challenging for Mortensen, as he also lost a tooth after being hit in the face with a sword during a fight scene. According to SlashFilm, Peter Jackson recalled the moment, saying, “[Mortsensen] immediately snatched [his tooth] up and said ‘Get me some super glue! We’ve got to stick this back in and carry on.’ He was yelling out for glue!”

So Mortensen broke a toe and lost a tooth during The Two Towers, but that wasn’t it. The increasingly unlucky actor nearly drowned when filming a scene where Aragorn passes out and floats down the river. IndieWire reports that Mortensen voluntarily put himself in harm’s way during the filming of The Return of the King.

The crew was filming in a part of the desert that had been used by the New Zealand Army, and still had unexploded artillery shells scattered around. The army had provided Jackson with a “safe zone” where they could film, but Mortensen rode outside of that area to film his speech at the Black Gate. Jackson was terrified that the bombs would explode, but Mortensen came back shortly after and continued filming in the safe zone.