Sam Neill Was Asked To Star In Lord Of The Rings, Just Don’t Ask Him Which Character It Was

Sam Neill in Jurassic World: Dominion
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

The world knows Sam Neill for his own stable of iconic and memorable characters, arguably the most notable being that of Dr. Alan Grant in the Jurassic Park movies. Currently streaming for HBO Max subscribers, memories of that rugged academic make it hard not to think of Neill wearing his trademark hat, and evading dinosaurs with his smarts at every turn. That’s especially true with the excitement of Sam Neill and legendary co-star Laura Dern when it came to their Jurassic World Dominion returns. 

However, just as Neill almost played James Bond, another what if scenario could have landed him another major franchise: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Though good luck trying to find out who he was supposed to play, as the man himself has politely declined to reveal such information, and for a good reason.

As we spoke on behalf of Jurassic World Dominion’s press tour, we discussed Sam Neill’s reluctant 007 audition for The Living Daylights. While that role went to Timothy Dalton, the New Zealand actor was more than happy to let others slip on the tuxedo and save the world. Especially because if he’d taken the gig somehow, it may have prevented Neill from getting to play his Jurassic Park legacy character.

That fortune comes with its own pitfall though, as when the time came to be offered a role in Lord of the Rings, a conflict arose that ended things before they began. As Sam Neill told CinemaBlend, his Jurassic fate cut both ways when it came to his resume:

Interesting, isn’t it? There’s always conflicts. I was asked to do something good in The Lord of the Rings, but that conflicted with Jurassic Park III. People’s careers can often be extremely random. I always just think one’s lucky to have a career at all. But there’s not a lot you can do to shape your own career, really. It’s something that happens very haphazardly.

Were it not for Dr. Alan Grant’s second trip into dino peril in 2001, Sam Neill may have played “something good” in the now epic fantasy franchise that took the world by storm. To have that sort of opportunity is something that plenty of actors have seen come and go, especially in the history of The Lord of the Rings

Keep in mind, this is the same franchise that saw Sir Sean Connery and Christopher Plummer passing on the role of Gandalf, which eventually went to Sir Ian McKellan. Not to mention Stuart Townsend was replaced by Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn after only a couple days of filming; an experience that left Mortensen feeling appropriately awkward.

With a franchise that’s not shy about its alternate history, fans are probably more than curious about who Sam Neill would have played. That is a question that will remain unanswered for the time being, as Neill declined to answer for the following reasons, with his trademark air of politeness:

No, I couldn’t say that, because that would make the person who played it feel like I was a prick.

Though the cases mentioned above are public knowledge, Sam Neill’s potential role in The Lord of the Rings isn’t. As tempting as it might have been to play that guessing game before learning about this particular story, it feels wrong to even try after that sweet reason for not revealing the truth. To guess who Neill could have played in Lord of the Rings would make me feel like a prick in my own right, which is why I have to agree with this lack of speculation.

Whatever role may have been earmarked for Sam Neill in Lord of the Rings would have been a fantastic one, but at the same time it’s safe to say that no one would trade any of the casting from that iconic lineup. Not to mention, the arguably best thing about Jurassic Park III is Neill’s return to Dr. Alan Grant. Nature played out the way it should have, because as Sam Neill remarked above, to have a career is all the luck an actor should ask for.

Fans can ask for a lot of Jurassic action at the current moment, as the original Jurassic Park trilogy is still streaming on HBO Max at the time of this publication. Meanwhile, Jurassic World Dominion is still enjoying a healthy run in theaters, and can be enjoyed in many formats. Though if you’re a moviegoer ready to seek out new adventures, the upcoming movies throughout the year will help you do just that. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.