Hold On! Gimme A Sec

Lord of the Rings’ uncredited Gimli actor speaks out for first time

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Peter Jackson and the inventive crew behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy assembled a Fellowship on display screen and on set. The expertise of practically two years of filming was so deeply felt by the ensemble that, after finishing filming, the actors of the Fellowship received matching tattoos to cement the bonds they’d solid collectively in New Zealand. Only one member of the core solid doesn’t bear the elvish “nine” on their individual: John Rhys-Davies.

2021 marks The Lord of the Rings films’ twentieth anniversary, and we could not think about exploring the trilogy in only one story. So every Wednesday all through the 12 months, we’ll go there and again once more, analyzing how and why the movies have endured as fashionable classics. This is Polygon’s Year of the Ring.

Since bringing Gimli the dwarf to life, Rhys-Davies has joked that he doesn’t have the tattoo as a result of “whenever there’s anything dangerous or that involves blood, I sent my stunt double to do it.” But the true story is way more difficult and spectacular. Another actor spent an incredible deal of time taking part in Gimli alongside the different actors of the Fellowship, albeit with out a lot credit score. Stunt- and size-double Brett Beattie has by no means spoken to the media about his time taking part in Gimli in the Lord of the Rings movies till now, however in his personal humble manner, he’s able to share the full extent of how a lot he put into the position, recall some outdated battle wounds, and reveal why he was chosen to grow to be a member of the tattoo fellowship.

Beattie was about as inexperienced as they arrive when he stepped into the blockbuster world of Middle-earth. Although he had performed “a wee bit” of highschool drama whereas rising up in Canterbury, on New Zealand’s South Island, he had no critical performing expertise to talk of. What he did have going for him, nonetheless, was a black belt in martial arts, loads of horse-riding expertise, and a peak of 4’10” — useful for a film the place many predominant characters are dwarves or hobbits.

“I’m a country boy. I come from a rural environment,” Beattie tells Polygon. “From having no experience. I couldn’t have gotten kicked more in the deep end, let’s put it that way.”

Initially, Beattie was employed to do horse stunts. (“I did that for two weeks and out of everything I’ve done, my god, that was dangerous.”) However, casting quickly picked him up as a result of he was an ready scale double and will stand in for Rhys-Davies — who, regardless of taking part in a dwarf, was the tallest member of the predominant solid at 6’1”. But as soon as it turned clear that the facial prosthetics wanted to convey Gimli to life triggered a nasty allergy in Rhys-Davies’ pores and skin, Beattie turned the go-to Gimli.

“I am aware that a lot of the people, even hard-core Lord of the Rings fans assume that a lot of the shots are some tricky sort of camera angle or some CGI shrinking John Rhys-Davies down,” Beattie says with a good-natured snicker. “I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubbles, but I can only think of a couple of shots where CGI was used to shrink Rhys-Davies down.”

Viewers can’t actually inform when Gimli is Rhys-Davies and when he’s Beattie — that’s the entire level — however Beattie can. He remembers watching a YouTube video of one minute and a half of Gimli struggle scenes and realizing that each one however 4 seconds of the montage had been him. Beattie says he spent 189 days — some 2,300 hours — as Gimli, all informed.

A man in shorts and a blue tank top “hurls” actor Brett Beattie from a rocky outcropping on the set of Helm’s Deep. Beattie hangs in midair, aiming for a safety pad a dozen feet away and down across a huge gap.

Beattie, photographed rehearsing Gimli’s notorious “tossing” on set at Helm’s Deep.
Photo: Courtesy of Brett Beattie

His time on set was not with out incident. Just final month, Beattie received his third knee reconstruction surgical procedure, a consequence of having blown each knees whereas filming the films. “The surgeon was asking me how I got those injuries, and I was like, ‘Well, I was battling Uruk-hai at Helm’s Deep,’” Beattie says, as he lists off different shut calls like a sinking canoe, dodging horse hooves, and taking an ax to the head. While holding one of the heavier, extra detailed prop axes for a close-up shot of Gimli operating, Beattie tried to toss the weapon from one hand to the different.

“I clipped my brow on the way past. Because I was wearing a prosthetic mask, the blood couldn’t get out. So the blood built up and built up under the mask until, eventually, an eye-bag which was glued on actually ruptured and the blood just started spurting out,” he remembers. “It looked a lot worse than it actually was.”

Even after they weren’t changing into blood balloons, these facial prosthetics had been loads to endure. The scale doubles taking part in the hobbits had full rubber masks they may simply pull on and take off, and there was an unwritten rule that they couldn’t be in the masks for greater than an hour at a time on set. Beattie, in the meantime, had greater than 2 kilograms of silicon and foam rubber glued to his face for a minimal of 12 hours a day, generally extra.

“A lot of guys couldn’t do it,” Beattie says, not making an attempt to brag a lot as simply earnestly convey what a hardship these prosthetics had been. “I’d actually seen a guy ask to put it on and he was getting claustrophobic and had to take it off.”

Towards the finish of filming, Beattie was operating on fumes — figuratively and actually, when you think about that he was primarily sweating out the chemical adhesives used to connect the Gimli prosthetics. He and his prosthetic artist Tami Lane had been continuously the first individuals on set in the early hours of the morning to get him able to shoot, after which he’d have hassle sleeping as a result of an onset of insomnia. He took to taking naps, in costume, whereas filming.

“I’d get woken up — ‘Brett, you’re on!’ — and the next thing I knew I’d be running through Fangorn Forest or the Mines of Moria getting chased by goblins,” he remembers. “I wasn’t awake, I wasn’t asleep, I just ended up in this really crazy state of consciousness.”

Beattie was doing far, way over he ever imagined he could be when he first received concerned with the Lord of the Rings movies, and he was definitely going above and past what one would possibly anticipate from a typical stunt performer. The relaxation of the solid knew it, too. This is the place the tattoo is available in, in addition to some of the extra unsavory features of moviemaking.

With the encouragement of his seasoned film star solid members, Beattie, who didn’t have an agent or any film enterprise expertise, requested to get a display screen credit score befitting the quantity of time and energy he’d put into Gimli. The producers agreed, saying that he was going to be listed in the credit as Gimli’s stunt, scale, and photograph double. But every week later, he was informed that he really couldn’t be given the display screen credit score, as a result of “movie politics’’ and “concerns about preserving the illusion that is Gimli.” Beattie is listed in the credit, however simply as a stunt performer. (Sean Astin’s ebook about his time filming Lord of the Rings, There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale, confirms that Beattie virtually received co-credit for taking part in Gimli.)

Beattie is hesitant to inform this story. As crushing as the bait-and-switch was, he holds no grudges, understands the impulse to guard Gimli as a personality, and he doesn’t need to rock the boat or trigger an argument in the Lord of the Rings world. Still, the lack of a correct display screen credit score was a disappointment after all the things he’d put into the films. The solid picked up on this. While Rhys-Davies is commonly quoted as saying he despatched Beattie to get a tattoo in his stead, Beattie says — and There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale corroborates — that it was really the relaxation of the solid who reached out to him.

“I remember Elijah Wood actually approached me first and invited me. And to tell you the truth, my biggest concern at the time was John Rhys-Davies. I knew that this wasn’t supposed to be for me to be asked to get this tattoo. So I said I had to think about it,” Beattie explains, including that he relented when Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom requested him once more the following day.

So, on a Sunday afternoon, Beattie, Mortensen, Bloom, Wood, Astin, Ian McKellen, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan (Sean Bean was already in England, in keeping with Beattie’s recollection) headed to a tattoo parlor in Wellington to get an elvish numeral engraved on their our bodies. It was an honor for Beattie, “No doubt about it.”

Orlando Bloom holds Brett Beattie’s hand as the latter is tattooed.

Beattie, with Orlando Bloom, getting his Fellowship tattoo.
Photo: Courtesy of Brett Beattie

Beattie’s solely remorse is what occurred after. “After we got the tattoos, Elijah says to me, ‘Myself and a few of the cast members are going into Peter Jackson’s armory today, um, to play with machine guns. Come.’” Still completely exhausted from the rigors of the shoot, he declined.

“I almost feel like I owe the cast some sort of an apology for not digging deeper and making that effort,” Beattie admits. “I spent a lot of time on set with the cast as a professional working. I spent a lot of time with mainly Viggo and Orlando socializing and fishing, but I didn’t have much to do with the [hobbit actors] or Peter Jackson. It was all very professional and that was an opportunity to get to meet them and them to get them to meet me without a mask glued to my face.”

Despite lacking out on some machine-gun bonding, Beattie remains to be without end a member of this particular fellowship. He’s not in contact with the different actors anymore, although Bloom made a particular effort to trace him down and catch up after they each labored on the Hobbit movies. Nowadays, Beattie, who labored with EA Games on the Lord of the Rings video video games after filming and nonetheless takes the occasional stunt position at times, spends most of his time working a local tree farm in Canterbury. He doesn’t present his tattoo off a lot or get any recognition, actually, for what he put into the Lord of the Rings movies.

Despite being thought of (if he’s thought of in any respect) as merely “Gimli’s stunt double,” Beattie is proud of what he completed throughout the making of the movies. “I knew I’d done something harder than I’d ever done in my life, and I knew I’d never work that hard again,” he says, including that he additionally feels that he did one thing good for his nation, contemplating the tangible methods the trilogy benefitted New Zealand’s filmmaking and tourism industries.

Playing Gimli was a life-changing expertise, for extra causes than simply getting some everlasting ink to quietly honor his unsung contributions. Beattie ended our interview by telling the story of his final day of filming. He’d been up till early in the morning for the residence beginning of his first baby, then hopped on a airplane to movie the Two Towers scene the place Gimli will get pinned by a useless warg and snaps an orc’s neck. Within 24 hours, he was again residence holding his child in his arms.

“There aren’t too many people who have been jumped by a warg, killed an orc, and delivered a baby all in the same day,” Beattie says with a smile.

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