That Time David Bowie Auditioned For A Role In The Lord Of The Rings

Peter Jackson’s sprawling adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is damn near the dictionary definition of epic. It has battles and quests and elves and orcs and all manner of cool fantasy shit—not to mention it’s like nine hours long in total. It also features a ton of fantastic actors, some well known at the time, others less so, but as a whole the casting is just about perfect across the board. But as it turns out, there’s one iconic figure that could have been involved, as the late, great David Bowie apparently auditioned for a role.

Dominic Monaghan was a young actor with a few parts under his belt when he went into Hubbard’s, a sizeable casting agency, to audition for The Lord of the Rings. As he told the Huffington Post, it must have gone well as John Hubbard, the dude the agency derives its name from, told him to hang around for a few minutes for some additional feedback—and there’s the fact that he wound up playing Merry, one of the hobbits, in the trilogy. It was during this wait, however, that Monaghan saw the legendary rock star. He said:

As I was reading a magazine waiting, David Bowie came in and signed his little list and went in. And I'm assuming he read for Gandalf. I can't think of anything else he would've read for. He may have read for something else, but I'm a huge David Bowie fan, and I was lucky enough to know his son now so just seeing him in person was pretty special to me.

That must have been one hell of a surreal experience. You’re just sitting there, idling thumbing through a magazine, running over your audition in your mind (I’d be second guessing every last choice I made, because that’s how I roll), and then you look up and, oh, there’s David Bowie. Even if you’re an actor and used to being around famous people, he was on a whole different level, and it’s hard to imaging not being star struck.

After 15 years and three movies, plus Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, it’s hard to picture any other actor in these roles. But damn, you have to be curious about which part David Bowie auditioned for—the fact that he had to audition at all is a bit of a head scratcher. Like Monaghan posits, Gandalf is a good bet, and how cool would it have been to see David Bowie roaming around the countryside with a pointy hat, a staff, and a bunch of hobbits, dwarves, elves, and woodsman in tow?

I could also see him reading for Saruman. In my mind that actually seems like a better fit. Christopher Lee totally kills that role, but David Bowie could have pulled of that sinister vibe, hanging out in his white robes in his tower at Isengard, getting into a magic fight with Gandalf. That could have been amazing.

Those are the two main roles I can envision him playing, though, come to think of it, he could have made a pretty sweet Elrond. What part do you think David Bowie was up for in Lord of the Rings? And would you have liked to see that, or would someone of his stature been a distraction?

Brent McKnight