The Lord of the Rings, an epic fantasy movie trilogy directed by Peter Jackson represents one of the key moments in cinema for this genre. These films were released two decades ago and they are still relevant to this day if not more. The films were of course famously adapted from the book trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien who became one of the most prominent fantasy writers of our time.
It’s hard to imagine that these movies were at the time of their release essentially starting to break the mold in Hollywood. The fantasy genre wasn’t considered something worthy of an Oscar nomination but these films changed everyone’s perspective on it.
In honor of this iconic moment in cinematic history, we are going to remember the actors who have been a part of this project. Sadly, there comes a time when we have to say goodbye to our most cherished characters and the actors who brought them to life. Here is our list of all eleven actors from Lord of the Rings that died since the movie trilogy was released.
Noel Appleby „Odo Proudfoot“ (1933 – 2007)
Actor Noel Appleby had many memorable moments in the first and last movie in the trilogy. He played Odo Proudfoot, Bilbo Baggins’s cousin, who at first disapproves of Gandalf arriving in the Shire, most of the Hobbits thought he was trouble.
This would later change at the sight of the fireworks that Gandalf provided as entertainment for all of Shire. The actor was also known for his roles in The Navigator, My Grandpa Is a Vampire, and Cupid’s Prey. The New Zealand actor was the perfect choice for this character, he filled his short performance with wonderful devotion. Appleby passed away in May 2007.
Martyn Sanderson „Harry Goatleaf“ (1938 – 2009)
Martyn Sanderson had a significant role in improving New Zealand’s Theatre. He would go on to be one of the founding fathers of modern theatre in New Zealand. Sanderson found himself in many different roles over the years, he was an actor, producer, director, writer, and poet.
In The Lord of The Rings, he played the role of Harry Goatleaf. The first time we see him is when Frodo, Mary, Pippin, and Sam enter Bree. At that time he was guarding the gate which surrounded the town. He would make another appearance in The Prancing Pony where he saw Frodo disappear after The Ring slipped on his finger.
Aragorn would later tell Frodo that Bill Ferny and Harry were most likely being used for the Black Riders bidding. Before his passing, Sanderson was working on a play with his second wife, called Muntu. Sadly, he passed away on 14 October 2009.
Elizabeth Moody „Lobelia Sackville-Baggins“ (1939 – 2010)
Elizabeth Moody was born in England but eventually emigrated and naturalized to New Zealand. She was a television and theatre actress and director. Her character in The Lord of The Rings was called Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.
After Bilbo’s birthday party, Bilbo left Bag End to Frodo’s care and Lobelia and her husband claimed that this was not true. They claimed that Bilbo’s will was forged because they had other ulterior motives. Bilbo would even joke at Lobelia’s expense that she used to steal his silverware.
She would go on to appear in the extended version of The Fellowship of The Ring and she is even mentioned in the first Hobbit movie. Unfortunately, the actress passed away from pneumonia on January 12.
Alan Howard „Sauron“ (1937 – 2015)
Alan MacKenzie Howard is an English actor with a very rich background in theatre. In fact, he was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company up until 1983. He would go on to play in the Royal National theatre as well. We can definitely say that his work in theatre was quite significant. He won the award for Best Actor at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards which is one of the oldest theatrical award ceremonies in the United Kingdom.
If you were ever wondering who was the voice behind the greatest evil in the trilogy, Sauron, look no further. This extremely talented and passionate English actor voiced the main antagonist of the Lord of The Rings. The second Dark Lord who tried to conquer Middle Earth was also known by the name Gorthaur in the First Age. Howard passed away on 14 February 2015, also from pneumonia at the age of 77.
Sir Christopher Lee „Saruman“ (1922 – 2015)
The amazing Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was an English actor and singer who in the Lord of The Rings portrayed the character, Saruman the White. Alongside his iconic role in Fellowship of The Ring, he also played Dracula and became quite known for his brilliant villain portrayals.
In 2009 he was knighted for his services to drama and charity and has received many different awards including BAFTA Fellowship. In his sixty years of contributing to the Arts, alongside cinema his second passion was music. He went on to record opera and musical pieces between 1986 and 1998.
Lee’s character Saruman the White, also known as one of the Istari wizards who were one of the collectives that fought against Sauron. In fact, he was the chief of the White Council, before betraying it because of his desire for more power. He was defeated after pledging Isengard’s fealty to Mordor and after he attacked the Kingdom of Rohan. Sadly, the legendary actor passed away at age 93 after he was hospitalized for respiratory problems.
William Johnson „Old Noakes“ (1924 – 2016)
William Johnson, also known as Bill Johnson was another New Zealand actor who played the character of Old Noakes in the extended version of The Fellowship of The Ring. After the release of the last Lord of The Rings movie, Johnson also worked with the director Peter Jackson on his movie King Kong.
Old Noakes appeared before Bilbo’s birthday party at the Ivy Bush tavern. He was talking to Old Gaffer and Sandyman about the rumors of how Frodo’s father and mother had died. They all claimed different scenarios, one of them said that it was because Frodo’s father was too heavy for the boat in which they were sailing. Others said that Frodo’s mother pushed his father off of the boat. Johnson passed away on September 23 in 2016.
Alistair Browning „Damrod“ (1954 – 2019)
Film and theatre actor Alistair Browning was also a part of the New Zealand crew. He played the character called Damrod. He first started his career working as an intern at The Mercury Theatre in Auckland where he learned about many different operational sectors.
Learning about how lighting, sound effects, set construction and costuming work together to showcase its plays. Finally, in 1980 he joined a theatre company where he would focus more on his acting, playing the role of Hamlet and many more.
Browning played one of the most trusted men that Faramir had, and his name was Damrod. He was also known as a Ranger of the Ithilien and the companion of Mablung. The first time we see the character is when he encounters Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee. Damrod decides to guard the two on their way to Mordor. A couple of days after he was sent on a different mission to reinforce Osgiliath in the wake of the attack sent against it. Browning passed away on 2 June 2019 from cancer.
Ray Henwood „Councilman“ (1937 – 2019)
Charles Raymond Henwood was born in Wales and moved to New Zealand when he was 25, there he eventually started teaching science and mathematics. He was very significant in this field because later on, he would introduce the breathalyzer as a toxicologist who was a part of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
At that time he was simultaneously working in theatre and film. Up until his death, he was contributing to Theatre Circa where he was one of the founding members. For his contribution to film and theatre, he was appointed as the Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
In The Fellowship of The Ring, his role was smaller but still very important, he played the role of a councilman in the scenes of Council of Elrond. This council was called by the elf Elrond. It was held in Rivendell and the topic that had to be addressed was what to do with The Ring that Frodo was carrying.
This council called upon the representatives of three races, men, elves, and dwarves. Many different solutions for saving Middle-Earth were suggested, like throwing it in the sea or having someone guard it at all times, but eventually, it was decided that it should be thrown into the Cracks of Doom in Mordor and finally destroyed. Henwood passed away on 26 August 2019 in Wellington.
Ian Holm „Bilbo Baggins“ (1931 – 2020)
The legendary Sir Ian Holm Cuthbert went on to portray many iconic characters on the film screen over the years. In our trilogy, he played the role of Bilbo Baggins, Frodo’s older cousin. Similar to Alan Howard who voiced Sauron, he was also a part of the Royal Shakespeare Company. In his career, he won many awards for his performances, like in 1967 he won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor as well as seven BAFTA nominations.
Hobbits are generally described to be very content in their homes and country, they are not adventure-focused at all, and yet Bilbo Baggins went against all of their rules and beliefs. Because of his adventures with the wizard Gandalf, he became famous among his own. There is no surprise that Frodo would follow in his footsteps after Bilbo adopted him. Holm was truly amazing in his portrayal of Bilbo and will be greatly missed. He passed away on 19 June 2020 at the age of 88 in London.
Bruce Alpress „Aldor“ (1930 – 2020)
Bruce Robert Alpress was another New Zealand actor a part of The Lord of The Rings universe. His work on television started in the sixties and continued after that. Another one of his iconic roles was when he played alongside Tommy Lee Jones in a movie called Nate and Hayes. He won the New Zealand film and television award for Best Actor.
In the second movie, The Two Towers the character Aldor was shown in the scene where the Uruk-hai attacked the fortress of the Hornburg. The Uruk-hai assembled in front of the fortress. Before any attack happened Aldor took his bow and started to adjust his arrow. His grip was shaky and so he accidentally released the arrow killing an Uruk. As soon as everyone realized what happened the fight began. Unfortunately, Apress passed away from ALS on 23 April 2020 at the age of 89.
Pete Smith „Orc soldier“ (1958 – 2022)
Peter Bruce Smith was another New Zealand actor a part of the iconic Lord of The Rings cast. His career started in theatre when he joined a drama course and soon after he would make his stage debut. He continued to work on film and television projects and some of his more notable roles were in The Piano and The Boys released during the late eighties and at the beginning of the nineties.
His character appeared in the final movie, Return of The King where he played the role as one of the Orc soldiers in the Battle of The Pelennor Fields. This battle started with Sauron’s army attacking Minas Tirith. It was the largest battle in the trilogy. The battle ended with most of the enemies dead, Sauron’s army returning back, that is, the few that were left.
Sauron’s biggest loss in this battle was most likely losing his chief Orc servant. Smith’s role might’ve been small but his performance was very well remembered and so news of his passing earlier this year was devastating. Pete Smith passed away from kidney disease on January 29, 2022, at the age of 63.