John Rhys-Davies is one of modern cinema’s most recognizable character actors. While best known as Gimli in LORD OF THE RINGS, or as Indiana Jones’ (Harrison Ford) comic sidekick, Sallah, in two of Paramount’s INDIANA JONES adventure films, John has appeared in over 150 television shows and films since the early ’70s.
He subsequently starred as Vasco Rodrigues in NBC’s adaptation of James Clavell’s SHOGUN, which told the adventures of an English sailor stranded in Japan during the early 17th century.
John’s performance earned him both an Emmy nomination and the attention of directors Blake Edwards and Steven Spielberg. Blake cast him in VICTOR/VICTORIA with Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston, Leslie Ann Warren, and former pro-football player Alex Karras. A few months later, Spielberg cast him as the comic, fez- wearing Sallah in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, the first installment of the Indiana Jones movies. The film was an instant success and John’s comedic skill made Sallah an audience favorite.
For the next two decades, the actor worked on numerous films and television shows and made memorable guest appearances on CHIPS, THE SCARECROW AND MRS. KING, MURDER, SHE WROTE, PERRY MASON, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, STAR TREK: VOYAGER, and THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF JULES VERNE. In 1982, he portrayed Front de Boeuf in the television adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s IVANHOE that starred James Mason and Sam Neill. In 1985, he was re-united with Richard Chamberlain in KING SOLOMON’S MINES, survived a light plane crash which nearly cost him his leg, co-wrote and starred in the safari adventure film TUSKS.
In 1999, John read for the minor character of Denethor in the second installment of Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. Jackson offered him the role of the warrior dwarf Gimli, a major figure in all three pictures. As Gimli, John is utterly unrecognizable: The part required that he wear heavy facial prosthetics and perform on his knees to portray the 4’2″ dwarf (the actor, himself, was then over six feet tall). The three films THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001), THE TWO TOWERS (2002), and THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003), were shot simultaneously over an 18-month period in New Zealand. John also voices Treebeard, a computer-generated character in the second picture.