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How much did the ‘Lord of the Rings’ actors make?

In some cases, not as much as you'd think.

The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is one of history’s most lucrative fantasy franchises. The J.R.R. Tolkien saga brought almost three billion dollars at the box office. 20 years later, it still earns royalties through syndicated premieres, video game adaptations, and merchandise. But the film series didn’t just make loads of money — it also changed the lives and careers of many of its small-time stars.

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Thanks to their roles in one of the greatest film sagas, many actors can attribute the bulk of their net worth to their salaries while filming LOTR. However, some of those salaries didn’t start as great as you might think. You may be surprised to learn what your favorite actors got paid to play their iconic roles.

How much did the LOTR cast get paid?

A number of actors became household names due to their involvement in the trilogy, which propelled them into the ranks of Hollywood A-listers and helped establish them as household names for generations to come. At the box office, the three films made billions, but how much did each cast member earn?

Sean Astin and Orlando Bloom

Image via New Line Cinema

Let’s start with the two most prominent supporting characters, Samwise Gamgee and Legolas, played by Sean Astin and Orlando Bloom, respectively. Astin only received $250,000 for his role as Frodo Baggins’ best friend, Sam, in all three Lord Of The Rings films ⏤ a ridiculously low figure considering how much the franchise made. Bloom received even less for his role as the elven archer Legolas, signing on to play the role for only $175,000.

Don’t feel too sorry for Bloom, though. After landing the role of Will Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, he went on to amass a net worth of over $40 million.

Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis

Andy Serkis and Elijah Wood
Image via Getty Images

Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis, who played the roles of Frodo Baggins and Gollum, respectively, had slightly different starting salaries. Like Astin, Woods’ starting salary was originally $250,000 for the first installment of LOTR. However, before the film trilogy ended, that salary increased to $1 million. On the other hand, Andy Serkis, who had already proven himself a valuable and seasoned actor, was offered $1 million right out of the gate.

This is unsurprising, given that older and more well-known actors usually have more wiggle room when negotiating their contracts. Given Serkis’ impressive work, his $1 million offer made perfect sense. But he wasn’t the only one.

Ian McKellen

Image via New Line Cinema

According to Haley’s Bio Blog, Ian McKellen, who played the iconic role of the wizard Gandalf, also got paid well to join the cast. McKellen took home $13 million for his work on Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers.

Combined with his earnings from the X-Men franchise, his LOTR salary provided a cushy foundation to help build his $60 million fortune.

John Rhys-Davies

Image via New Line Cinema

Unfortunately, not every seasoned actor on the LOTR set received the same pay. John Rhys-Davies, for example, had plenty of acting credits to his name but was not as well-known as actors like Serkis and McKellen. By the end of the trilogy, Davies had accumulated most of his $5 million fortune from the franchise for his role as the dwarf Gimli.

Other stars attribute much of their financial success to the franchise, but since their salary numbers haven’t been disclosed, it’s harder to pin down how much they were paid to film Lord Of The Rings. That said, there’s no denying that the franchise boosted many of their careers and helped them amass small fortunes.

Sean Bean

Image via New Line Cinema

It’s been reported that Sean Bean, who played Boromir in the LOTR trilogy, earned around $250,000 for his role in the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring. His salary for the subsequent two films, The Two Towers and The Return of the King is not publicly available, but his pay likely increased along with the other lead actors.

We can say that his work has paid off, as reports say that he’s worth $20 million thanks to his work in the franchise.

Dominic Monaghan

Image via New Line Cinema

It’s unclear exactly how much Dominic Monaghan, who played Merry in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, earned for his role in the films. However, he likely earned a lower salary than the lead actors such as Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, and Ian McKellen, some of the highest-paid cast members.

Supporting actors such as Monaghan and his co-star Billy Boyd, who played Pippin, were not as well-known then and likely received smaller paychecks. It’s worth noting that while their salaries may have been lower, their roles in the films were still significant and helped launch their careers. Dominic is now worth $12 Million thanks to the role.

Liv Tyler

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Liv Tyler, who played Arwen in the LOTR trilogy, earned a reported $2 million for her role in the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring. Her salary for the subsequent two films, The Two Towers and The Return of the King is not publicly available, but her pay likely increased along with the other lead actors. She is now worth $50 million after acting in Lord Of The Rings and other mainstream projects like The Incredible Hulk and Ad Astra.

Viggo Mortensen

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Viggo Mortensen, best known for his role as Aragorn, has earned $40 million since his time on the LOTR set. After starring in the 11-time Oscar-winning The Return of the King, he became a three-time Oscar nominee for the films Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic, and Green Book.

Cate Blanchett

Image via New Line Cinema

Cate Blanchett, widely recognized for her role as the royal elf Galadriel, is also one of the few actors to be included in every Jackson-directed Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie. The Australian actress already had a stellar career before Lord Of The Rings, so there’s a good chance she was also one of the few to negotiate a higher paycheck.

Though her salary was never disclosed for those appearances, it’s safe to say that her earnings from LOTR make up a decent chunk of her $80 million fortune.

How much did the actors from The Hobbit cast get paid?

Image via New Line Cinema

The actors in The Hobbit trilogy were reportedly paid different salaries based on their contracts and negotiations with the film’s producers. However, it’s been reported that the lead actors, such as Martin Freeman, who played Bilbo Baggins, and Ian McKellen, who reprised his role as Gandalf, earned significantly more than the supporting actors.

For example, Freeman earned around $3 million for his role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, with his salary increasing for the subsequent two films. Ian McKellen reportedly earned around $3 million for each of the three films, totaling $9 million for his role as Gandalf.

Other notable actors in The Hobbit trilogy include Richard Armitage, who played Thorin Oakenshield, and Benedict Cumberbatch, who provided the voice and motion capture for the dragon Smaug. Their exact salaries are not publicly available, but they likely earned less than Freeman and McKellen and more than the supporting actors.


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