John Rhys-Davies

John Rhys-Davies pictured as Macro in the BBC drama I, Claudius

Last updated: 03 November 2009

Welsh stage and screen actor John Rhys-Davies is instantly recognisable to fans of Hollywood blockbusters The Lord Of The Rings and Indiana Jones for his respective roles of Gimli and Sallah.

Rhys-Davies was born in Ammanford to Welsh parents before his family moved to Africa. He was later educated in England and graduated in English from the University of East Anglia, having set up the Dramatic Society while there. He was accepted into RADA, and is now an Associate Member of the academy.

Sporadic television roles followed during the 1970s, including very brief spells in Budgie with Adam Faith, Dixon Of Dock Green, The Adventures Of Black Beauty and The Sweeney. In 1976 he starred as Macro in the epic BBC production of I, Claudius based on the novels of Robert Graves.

Following this role, for which he garnered much acclaim, he starred in American mini-series Shogun alongside Richard Chamberlain in 1980. Rhys-Davies was nominated for an Emmy award in the outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or a special category for his portrayal of Vasco Rodrigues, one of his first major roles.

Fame beckoned in 1981 as he took on the role of Sallah in Steven Spielberg's Raiders Of The Lost Ark, in which he appeared alongside Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones. He followed this up with Victor Victoria in 1982 with Julie Andrews and James Garner, and King Solomon's Mines (1985), again with Richard Chamberlain.

Rhys-Davies later played the head of the KGB General Leonid Pushkin in James Bond film The Living Daylights (1987). A year later he starred in television mini-series War And Remembrance before reprising his role as Sallah in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989).

He took the lead role of Challenger in Timothy Bond's The Lost World and Return To The Lost World, both in 1992, and appeared in a number of episodes of crime drama The Untouchables. He voiced many characters in children's films and television programmes during the 1990s and later appeared in sci-fi serial Sliders between 1995 and 1997.

Rhys-Davies returned to the Hollywood spotlight when he was selected to play Gimli the dwarf in Peter Jackson's adaptation of JRR Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings, despite his 6'1" stature. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring was released in 2001 to critical acclaim, and was followed by The Two Towers (2002), in which Rhys-Davies also voiced Treebeard, and the concluding part of the trilogy, The Return Of The King, in 2003.

Since the success of the Lord Of The Rings, Rhys-Davies has continually worked on various stage and screen productions, notably playing the Viscount Mabrey in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement in 2004 and starring in television mini-series Revelations (2005) with Bill Pullman.

In 2009 he starred in spoof comedy series Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire with Matt Lucas and Sean Maguire.


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