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While we may get caught up in the glitz and glamour of celebrities’ lives and think they have it easy, it’s worth remembering that filming is often a very physically demanding job.

On-set injuries are certainly not unheard of. Brad Pitt, for instance, tweaked his Achilles’ tendon while — ironically — filming Troy. Kaitlin Olson had to be rushed to the ER when an injury on the set of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia left her nursing a badly cut leg. Some actors have even died on set — often when special effects went awry. 

Luckily, nothing quite that tragic befell Viggo Mortensen while filming Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but one on-set injury did leave him with two broken toes. 

‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ is a well-received fantasy film

When J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic series Lord of the Rings finally made its way to the big screen, fans were delighted, and the studio knew they had to deliver the heart-stopping action in a major way. Coming back-to-back-to-back between 2001 and 2003, the films helped set the stage for expansive fantasy worlds that would come after it.

The second installment in the trilogy released in 2002 and was titled The Two Towers. In it, Frodo (played by Elijah Wood) and Sam (played by Sean Astin) must continue their quest to destroy the One Ring. The sprawling ensemble cast gave plenty of actors a chance to shine, and Viggo Mortensen’s performance has gone down as one of the most memorable and well-received. 

Viggo Mortensen played Aragorn

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen | Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

Mortensen’s role in the films was that of Aragorn. Initially, Aragorn’s significance is only hinted at, but eventually, his full importance becomes clear. Aragon remains steadfast in his commitment to help the hobbits destroy the One Ring.

Many others are swayed by the power that the Ring promises them, but Aragorn remains true to his word, demonstrating his character and resolve. He is also in love with Arwen, a powerful seer who is half-Elven. 

A fan favorite, Aragorn’s role has gone down as one of the best in the series, but Mortensen almost didn’t get the part. Stuart Townsend was originally cast in the role, and Mortensen was set to begin filming on a different project.

Fate intervened, giving Mortensen one of the defining roles of his career and helping boost his substantial net worth. This was not a one-way deal, however, as Mortensen’s agreement to take on the role saved the films from potential cancellation by the studio when Townsend was no longer available. 

One ‘Two Towers’ scene left Viggo Mortensen injured

As one would expect from such an action-packed saga, The Two Towers has plenty of physically-demanding scenes. It wasn’t a battle that left Mortensen injured, however. Instead, Mortensen broke two of his toes while kicking a helmet to express his dismay at finding the horrifying aftermath of a slaughter.

Mortensen filmed the helmet-kicking take several times with the director hoping to get a shot of the helmet flying close to the camera. On the fifth take, Mortensen screamed in anguish and then fell to his knees, perfectly capturing the pain of his character. What the creative team didn’t know until later was that it was real pain — he had broken two toes with that final kick. 

That wasn’t even the most hazardous moment of Mortensen’s filming. Much of the movie was shot in New Zealand, and a particular scene had Mortensen on horseback in a field where the New Zealand military had done training exercises — with landmines.

According to Looper, Mortensen kept improvising, which left director Peter Jackson holding his breath: “Having found their perfect Aragorn, they were going to watch him get blown up by an unexploded New Zealand bomb.”