John Rhys-Davies celebrates his 70th birthday today! John was born on May 5, 1944, in Ammanford, Wales, United Kingdom. The actor is well-known to fans of The Lord of the Rings films as the stalwart Gimli, son of Glóin, one of the nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring. He also voiced the Ent Treebeard in The Lord of the Rings films.
John grew up in Wales, Africa, and England. He credits his interest in acting to early exposure to classic literature and performing in a Shakespeare play at age 15. He attended the University of East Anglia to study English, and founded the Dramatic Society. After teaching at a secondary school in Norfolk, he won a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He is now an Associate Member of the Academy.
John’s career has ranged from stage, to television, to film. He performed in over 100 productions as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and took on television roles including the BBC adaptation of I, Claudius (1976), and the miniseries Shogun (1980). In 1981, John appeared in one of his most memorable roles as Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first Indiana Jones film. He reprised that role 8 years later in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he performed in a variety of roles, including leading roles in Victor, Victoria (1982), King Solomon’s Mines (1985), and The Living Daylights (1987). John has acted in over 80 films to this point in his career.
In 1999, John auditioned for the role of Denethor in The Lord of the Rings films. Director Peter Jackson offered the actor the role of Gimli instead. Not long after shooting began, John developed a severe allergic reaction to the prosthetic makeup he had to wear for the role. He also lost 70 pounds during the filming of The Lord of the Rings, from the amount of running involved in shooting, not to mention his 40-kilo costume. John was the only actor among the nine members of the Fellowship who did not get a tattoo to commemorate the films, sending his stunt double, Brett Beattie in his place. John was asked to reprise his role of Gimli for The Hobbit, but he declined. He paid a visit to the set of The Hobbit shortly after filming began in 2011, meeting Gimli’s father Glóin, played by actor Peter Hambleton.
John is a true Renaissance man. He has a pilot’s license and is an avid vintage car collector. He also develops a new hobby for each movie he works on.
Happy birthday to John, from all of us at Middle-earth News!