Who is John Rhys-Davies?
John Rhys-Davies is a Welsh actor, voice actor and producer best known for his roles of Gimli and Treebeard in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Being a son of a colonial police officer, he spent his childhood in Africa and England, where he studied in local schools. After graduating from University of East Anglia, where he founded the Dramatic Society, he began teaching at Watton County Secondary School in Norfolk, before getting a scholarship from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Deciding to pursue acting as his career, he started doing stage work, which included performances at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He made his TV debut in 1964 with ‘Crossroads.’ A few years later, he made his film debut with the movie ‘Penny Gold’. He also voiced various characters in many video games and animated television series. He currently resides between Waikato, New Zealand, and the Isle of Man. He is a supporter of Brexit and is against Islamic extremism.
Childhood & Early Life
John Rhys-Davies was born on 5 May 1944, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, to Phyllis Jones and Rhys Davies. His mother was a nurse and his father was a mechanical engineer and colonial officer.
He grew up in Tanganyika and Ammanford, Wales. For several years, his family lived in Kongwa, Dar es Salaam, Moshi and Mwanza, Tanzania, owing to his father’s job as a colonial police officer. He attended Truro School in Cornwall.
He was admitted to University of East Anglia in Norwich. There, he founded the Dramatic Society. After graduation, he began teaching at Watton County Secondary School in Norfolk, before gaining a scholarship to attend Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London.
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John Rhys-Davies started his acting career as a university student by giving stage performances. He first joined Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich, then performed at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, and also sometimes acted at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
He started his television career with a role in ‘Crossroads’ in 1964, followed by making his film debut in 1973 in ‘Penny Gold’. He then appeared in the TV series ‘I, Claudius’ (1976) and ‘Shōgun’ (1980) before landing roles in the films ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981) as Sallah and ‘Victor/Victoria’ (1982) as Andre Cassell.
After making an appearance in the TV show ‘Reilly, Ace of Spies’ in 1983, he appeared in the movies ‘King Solomon's Mines’ (1985) and ‘The Living Daylights’ (1987).
In 1988, he appeared in the miniseries ‘Noble House’ and ‘War and Remembrance’. In 1989, he again portrayed Sallah in the movie ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’.
He appeared in the TV series ‘Great Expectations’ (1991), ‘Archaeology’ (1992), and voice-acted in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ (1992) in the early 1990s. He worked in the TV series ‘The Untouchables’ (1993-94) and ‘Sliders’ (1995-97) in the ensuing years.
He voiced various characters in the TV show ‘Gargoyles’ (1995-96), video game ‘Ripper’ (1996), and movie ‘Aladdin and the King of Thieves’ (1996). From 2001 to 2003, he appeared in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy. He also provided his voice to the TV series ‘Justice League’ (2002) and the video game ‘Freelancer’ (2003).
In 2004, he narrated a documentary ‘The Privileged Planet’ and worked in the movie ‘La Femme Musketeer’. He then appeared in the TV series ‘Revelations’ (2005) and the film ‘One Night with the King’ (2006).
In 2016, he provided spoken words for the album ‘Voices of Fire’. In 2019, he voiced Evangelist in the movie ‘Pilgrim's Progress’.
John Rhys-Davies appeared as the charismatic Arab excavator Sallah in the films ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981) and ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ (1989). He gained critical appreciation and recognition for his role in the former film, which was nominated for the ‘Best Picture Oscar’.
His portrayal of Gimli and his voice role of Treebeard in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy earned him many award nominations. A dwarf warrior, Gimli is one of the primary characters of the novel series on which the film trilogy was based.
Family & Personal Life
John Rhys-Davies first married Suzanne Wilkinson in December 1966 and had two sons, Tom and Ben. Although the couple separated in 1985, they never got divorced. She died from Alzheimer's disease in 2010 and he took care of her until her death.
In 2004, he started living with the former journalist Lisa Manning, and they have a daughter named Maia.
He is a supporter of Brexit, British Conservative Party, and loves collecting vintage cars. He had been a radical leftist in the 1960s during his college days. On 25 April 2019, he appeared as a panelist on the BBC's ‘Question Time’.
His face and eyes were so badly affected from the makeup required for his character Gimli in the ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy that he refused to reprise the role in the film version of ‘The Hobbit’!