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Lord Of The Rings Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was a groundbreaking moment in cinematic history. The trio of films opened up the doors for modern on-screen fantasy and forced the Hollywood elites to accept the fact that, hey, you actually can have a good movie about elves, orcs, and dwarves. In fact, Jackson's films can indirectly be considered the gatekeepers that made it possible for the 21st-century world to enjoy everything from Marvel to "Star Wars" to "Game of Thrones" on such a massive scale.

The other reason Jackson's first Middle-earth trilogy is such a big deal is that the three films are old now. With two decades behind them, they are quickly shifting from modern must-see entertainment to cinematic classics. As the films continue to age, several of the actors have begun to pass away as well. It's a natural progression, especially for a project filled with so many older characters.

While death is a natural part of life, the real tragedy comes when an actor passes away and fans don't even know it. After taking part in such a heartwarming story as "The Lord of the Rings," the actors who have passed on deserve some attention. So without further ado, here are several of both the more and the less prominent actors from Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy who have passed in the decades since its release.

Sir Christopher Lee

Sir Christopher Lee was an iconic part of "The Lord of the Rings." The actor portrayed the white-haired antagonist Saruman throughout his rise and fall within the story. During that time, he endeared himself to Tolkien fans as a near-perfect reflection of the wizard in Tolkien's books.

Lee's biography is absolutely as epic as they come. The Englishman fought in World War II as a member of the Royal Air Force (via Britannica) — a sobering experience that allowed him to school Peter Jackson about what it actually was like to get stabbed in real life (via Los Angeles Times). After his stint in the military, Lee embarked on an acting career that started in the 1940s and continued for nearly three-quarters of a century. Throughout those 69 years, the man became iconically associated with a huge variety of roles, from Dracula to Count Dooku to Saruman. Throughout that time, he amassed a staggering 282 credits as an actor (via IMDb).

Along with acting, Lee wrote books, sang in a metal band (via Rolling Stone), and was a huge Tolkien nerd in his own right (via The Tolkien Society). The man read "The Lord of the Rings" when they were originally published and famously revisited them once each year afterward as a personal habit. He even met Tolkien himself in the Eagle and Child pub in merry ol' England. In 2009, Lee was knighted, and the newly minted Sir Christopher Lee passed away on June 7, 2015, less than a year after reprising his role as Saruman in the "Hobbit" trilogy. In fact, the final "Hobbit" film was the last movie released before his death that Lee starred in.

Sir Ian Holm

The other knight on this list is the venerable Sir Ian Holm. Holm is fondly remembered as the original on-screen Bilbo Baggins in Jacksonian Middle-earth, but he had a very long history of cinematic success before that ever took place. This included playing memorable roles as both Ash in 1979's "Alien" and Coach Sam Mussabini in 1981's "Chariots of Fire."

Like Sir Christopher Lee, Holm was no stranger to Tolkien's works. He started his Middle-earth career by voicing Frodo Baggins in a BBC radio production in the early '80s (via BBC). Having done vocals for one Baggins, Holm went double or nothing by iconically playing Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's original trilogy as well.

To top it off, he reprised the role in a cameo for the "Hobbit" trilogy that followed. Sadly, when Jackson approached him to return as an older Bilbo, Holm revealed that he had quietly been living with Parkinson's and was struggling to walk, let alone remember lines (via TheWrap). In response, Jackson literally flew the Bag End set to London, where Holm suited up as Bilbo one more time.

Holm was invited to attend a massive reunion event on Josh Gad's YouTube channel on May 31, 2020. Less than three weeks after missing the broadcast (for unknown reasons at the time), Holm passed away peacefully in the hospital with his family and carer by his side.

Other Lord of the Rings actors who have passed

There aren't many high-profile actors besides Christopher Lee and Ian Holm who have died since Peter Jackson's films were released. That said, here's a quick rundown of the handful of others who have passed.

Noel Appleby made multiple memorable appearances as the testy hobbit patriarch Odo Proudfoot, who expresses deep disapproval at the sight of Gandalf returning to the Shire. Appleby died on May 17, 2007. Martyn Sanderson is another native Kiwi who played the role of Bree-land gatekeeper Harry Goatleaf, who is smushed under his own gate by some intrusive Black Riders. Sanderson died on October 14, 2009.

Alan Howard is remembered for providing the epic, creepy, and all-around overwhelming voices of both Sauron and the One Ring (via Yahoo Movies UK). The Shakespearean actor shuffled off this mortal coil on February 14, 2015. British-born William Johnson is remembered for another hobbit role: Old Noakes of Bywater, who joins in criticizing Bilbo and Frodo for their "cracked" and "cracking" behaviors. Johnson passed on September 23, 2016. Alistair Browning played Damrod, the fearless Ranger of Ithilien who faithfully serves by Faramir's side until he perishes in the attack on Minas Tirith. The native New Zealander died on June 2, 2019.

Native Kiwi Bruce Allpress is fondly remembered as the elderly Rohirric archer Aldor who released his arrow too soon and kicked off the Battle of Helm's Deep in the process. The actor passed away peacefully at his home on April 23, 2020 (via NZ Herald). Most recently, Maori actor Pete Smith passed on January 29, 2022. Smith is remembered for his on-screen time depicting one of the lead Orcs in "Return of the King."