James Corden Almost Played Sam Gamgee in Lord of the Rings

James Corden at the 2019 HFPA Annual Grants Banquet.

Image: Jordan Strauss/Invision (AP)

Peter Jackson’s original Lord of the Rings movies are acclaimed to this day for many reasons, with its cast chief among them. It’s the series that helped introduce audiences to longtime actors such as the late Christopher Lee or Ian McKellan, and greatly boosted the profile of relative unknowns like Orlando Bloom or Elijah Wood. Now imagine that cast is largely the same, except instead of Sean Astin in the role of Frodo Baggins’ longtime BFF Samwise Gamgee, it’s current late night talk show host James Corden.

That’s a future we could’ve gotten, at least according to Corden himself. In a recent episode of the “Happy Sad Confused” podcast, the UK actor addressed the longstanding rumors that New Line Cinema’s 2000s fantasy epic was one of the first acting roles he pursued. “Every single person in London auditioned for Lord of the Rings,” he said. “I auditioned for Samwise. I was doing it! The accent and everything! ‘Mr. Frodo!’” He added that he and two of his friends got callbacks, twice, but ultimately weren’t contacted again after that.

Since he didn’t grab the role of Sam, Corden’s real breakout role would wind up being the Baker in Disney’s 2014 adaptation of Into the Woods. He was pretty upfront about saying his Sam audition was “not good,” but otherwise holds no real bad blood about getting passed over. “I enjoyed it until the last one [Return of the King],” he joked, “and then I was sort of like, ‘Oh, ok, I’ve seen this now — I should’ve gone to see Love Actually.”

It’s…weird to think about Corden being in that role, to be honest, but it makes you wonder about what would’ve spawned from that if he had landed the part. Would he still have wound up a late night talk show host who occasionally shows up in a random movie? Would Astin continue to voice Shazam in animated DC movies or be in Stranger Things? Maybe it’s for the best that things worked out the way they did?

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