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This Lord of the Rings Actor Doesn’t Get Enough Love for His Performance

This Lord of the Rings Actor Doesn't Get Enough Love for His Performance


  • John Noble’s portrayal of Denethor is a standout performance, showcasing his ability to sink into a complex character with despair and anger.
  • Denethor’s role as the steward of Gondor highlights his pride, fear, and desperation, creating a memorable character in a pivotal role.
  • Noble’s ability to switch between menacingly evil and adorably naive characters displays his range and talent as an actor in the Lord of the Rings epic.

The Lord of the Rings is a sweeping epic that, depending on which version you watch, could run you somewhere around ten hours (not including the Hobbit trilogy). In that time, there are far too many characters to remember and even fewer standout performances. The main cast is solid enough that people often forget just how fantastic the side characters can be.

One of these characters is Denethor, played by John Noble. The character is only in a handful of scenes but he grips the audience and milks every second. It is a magnificent performance by Noble and true fans will often point to it as one of their favorites. But what is it about Denethor and Noble that makes the performance worth the watch?

John Noble, The Geeks’ Grandaddy

Can we talk for a minute about how the Australian-born actor has buried himself in nerd culture? Not only was The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers his sixth movie, but it also allowed him to fully embrace his standing with a certain growing group of pop-culture consumers. Following the LOTR movies, he returned to his TV roots and had cameos in Stargate SG-1, The Librarians, and The Boys. He was also Walter Bishop in Fringe, Henry Parrish in Sleepy Hollow, and voiced The Diviner in Star Trek: Prodigy. The guy is a dynamo.

Noble also has the fascinating ability to play both menacingly evil and adorably naive. When you consider the breadth of his performances, he shows that his voice can boom through hallowed halls or meekly offer advice to other characters.

It should also be noted that he has won a variety of awards. Two of them, Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series from the Critic’s Choice Television Awards and Best Supporting Actor on Television from the Saturn Awards were won in 2011 for Fringe. He also won a number of awards for his LOTR performance from places like The Critic’s Choice Awards and the Screen Actors Guild. John Noble is the man for the job, and it appears that Peter Jackson found him first.

The Growling, Brooding Denethor

John Noble as Denethor in The Lord of the Rings
New Line Cinema

Denethor is a complex character. Director Peter Jackson was well aware of this when he cast Noble in the part. Denethor is the steward of Gondor. This means that he is not the king, but rather a place-holder should the king ever return. This can be seen by the fact that his minor throne sits well beneath that of the actual throne of Gondor. Denethor’s father was also a steward, and it has made Denethor a pessimistic and proud man who rejects the fact that a king would ever return and usurp the power that his family has acquired over the years. He says as much to Gandalf:

“Words have reached my ears of this Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and I tell you now: I will
bow to this Ranger from the north!”

This desperate anger is masking a real fear that he will lose his standing as the lord of Gondor, regardless of how temporary the role was supposed to be. When generations of men have sat in that seat, it feels as though the throne is theirs. Not to mention the fact that Gondor sits directly on the border with Mordor and that Denethor realizes they would be the first to be attacked should the forces of Sauron cross over.


Lord of the Rings Cast: Where They Are Today

Here is an overview of the careers and current projects of the cast of the legendary Lord of the Rings franchise.

Through only a handful of scenes, we watch as Denethor weeps at the death of his son Boromir, tells his other son, Faramir that he wishes he had died instead of his brother, and then sends Faramir on a suicide mission against the orcs. When he sees troops amassing at the gates of his city, he completely loses his mind, attempts to burn his son alive on a funeral pyre, and instead lights himself, running and falling to his death from the lofty height of Gondor’s courtyard.

In each of these scenes, we watch John Noble as he sinks the character into despair and anger. Denethor is a man of great strength who has finally cracked. Pride, anger, sadness, and fear have all come together to destroy a once-great man.

A Significant Role For a Significant Actor

John Noble proves in just a handful of scenes that he can completely develop and deliver a character that has such a pivotal role to play in the LOTR epic. One of the most agonizing scenes of The Return of the King is watching Faramir ride to his doom while we listen to Pippin sing one of the saddest songs ever, even as Denethor voraciously eats a meal, seemingly unaware of what he has put into motion. Pippin sings:

“All shall fade

All shall…fade”


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John Noble presents us with this scenario of a character who we are immediately asked to hate but who we realize is simply beyond grief. He is someone who has led Gondor for most of his life but has lived in the shadow of a phantom king who might one day return and a godlike monster who leads legions of orcs, and whose love for his sons has destroyed what is left of his mind.

Noble is immediately up for the task and makes sure that we remember him. His appearance in any other media often elicits “Hey! It’s Denethor!” in the minds of true fans. It is a part he will be forever tied to and which has earned him a spectacular career. Stream The Lord of the Rings on Max.

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