Miranda Otto was always going to stand out from the crowd in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. With Liv Tyler’s Arwen and Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel, her Princess Eowyn is one of just three significant female characters in the 10-hour, testosterone-laden epic. Where Arwen and Galadriel were passive, ethereal characters, in “Return of the King” Otto’s Eowyn takes up arms, charges into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and emerges victorious.
The Oz actress also delivers the most memorable lines in the trilogy’s closing chapter, “I am no man,” in response to an aggressor assuming she was male. J.R.R. Tolkien had a feminist side after all; he’d just been biding his time.
Almost four years after shooting the scene, Otto recalls, “Hugo Weaving said, ‘You’ve got the best line in the movie.’ We all knew that was going to be famous.”
Since the shoot in 2000, Otto has made a triumphant return to the stage in the Sydney Theater Company’s “A Doll’s House” and, among other things, twice paired with Brit thesp Rhys Ifans in comedies “Danny Deckchair” and “Human Nature.”
For the 36-year-old second-generation actress (her father is stage vet Barry Otto), her 18-year career has been governed by a desire for variety. She knows she’ll never again experience a project as epic as “Rings.”
“The great thing about Peter’s movies is they’re big but when you move into the drama it’s very personal and intimate. To make it work on both levels is incredibly hard to do,” she says.
Recently she’s been shooting “Flight of the Phoenix” for “Behind Enemy Lines” helmer John Moore and 20th Century Fox. Pic is set in Mongolia but lensing is in Namibia, Africa. Otto plays a geologist stranded with co-stars Dennis Quaid and Tyrese when their plan goes awry. It’s an apt role for the slight, ginger-haired actress, whom Oz director Shirley Barrett praises for possessing a raw physicality. (Otto starred in Barrett’s whimsical “Love Serenade,” which collected the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 1996.)
Otto’s planning to relocate to London from Sydney with new husband Peter O’Brien, opposite whom she played in “Doll’s House.” She rules out living in Los Angeles. “I prefer to visit,” she says.
Coming attractions: “The Flight of the Phoenix,” “In My Father’s Den”