‘Lord Of The Rings’ Star John Rhys-Davies Was Skeptical Of Peter Jackson And Had Low Expectations Of Adaptation At First: “I Went With Duplicity In My Heart” 

John Rhys in Dino Veritas
Arturo (John Rhys-Davies) is on the lookout for apex predators in Sliders season 2 episode 11 "In Dino Veritas" (1997), FOX

Legendary character actor John Rys-Davies is renowned for his innumerable and inimitable appearances in TV and film over several decades. However, despite his notable roles such as Professor Arturo on Sliders opposite Jerry O’Connell, he is well-remembered for two things: Indiana Jones and The Lord of the Rings

More power
Arturo (John Rhys-Davies) wants more power in Sliders season 1 episode 2 (1995), FOX

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He had a lot to say about both worlds on Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You podcast recently plus a host of other topics including loss and human mortality. It was a revelatory discussion all told, and when it came to LOTR, Davies confessed he was reluctant to work on The Fellowship of the Ring as he didn’t expect it to move forward valiantly as a trilogy. 

Much less did he think it would outgross Star Wars and win awards like the film eventually did. His faith in Peter Jackson was ‘disturbingly’ lacking in the beginning. “I went with duplicity in my heart, to be honest with you, when I heard they were making Lord of the Rings. I said, ‘Oh yeah, good luck.’” the actor recalled. 

John Rhys
Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) tells Indy to give them hell in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023), Lucasfilm

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“And who’s making it? Peter Jackson, he’s done one or two wonderful small movies. But let’s face it, if you’ve got a cast of four and six weeks, anyone can direct a movie, and sadly do. But has he any idea of what he’s really getting himself in for?” Davies told Rosenbaum.

“I did hear they were doing it, and I got asked to do something on tape. And I thought, Lord of the Rings, this is going to be a complete cluster whatever it is,” he recalled. Still, he was willing to give himself a vacation and see the sights.

Kingpin Davies
John Rhys-Davies chews scenery as Kingpin in The Trial of The Incredible Hulk (1989), NBC

“I thought, never mind, I haven’t been to New Zealand, go there, take part for a month, look around, and walk away. Because this is never going to happen. He [Jackson] has no idea what happens when you make a big movie, and you know I’ve done some big ones,” Davies continued.

Originally, the veteran performer was up for the part of Lord Denethor that ultimately went to Fringe star John Noble. Then they told Davies he was cast as Gimli and he was taken aback because of what that part demanded. 

Two Towers and Dwarf Women
Gimli talks Dwarf Women in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), New Line Cinema

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“When they came back and said we want you for Gimli, I thought what the hell. I’ve spent 30 years trying to be recognized, what the heck? Why would I want to put myself in a prosthetic like that and why would I want to spend five or six hours a day in makeup?” Davies explained.

He added, “More than that, who wants to spend three years in New Zealand, in a film that actually comes out in part one, fails and the other two go direct to video or something like that?”

Davies also recounted the days of shooting canceled by a flood that took out houses and a road, but despite natural disasters and makeup chair hours, he changed his tune. Within 18 months, he would sing the praises of Jackson’s LOTR and predicted it would become iconic and do better than the Star Wars prequels. This, of course, came to pass.

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