Peter Jackson and the inventive workforce 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 cast collectively in New Zealand. Just one member of the core forged doesn’t bear the elvish “9” 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 year long, we’ll go there and again once more, analyzing how and why the movies have endured as trendy classics. That 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 “at any time when there’s something harmful or that entails blood, I despatched my stunt double to do it.” However the true story is rather more difficult and spectacular. One other actor spent quite a lot of time enjoying Gimli alongside the opposite 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 enjoying Gimli within the Lord of the Rings movies till now, however in his personal humble manner, he’s able to share the total extent of how a lot he put into the function, recall some previous battle wounds, and reveal why he was chosen to change into a member of the tattoo fellowship.
Beattie was about as inexperienced as they arrive when he stepped into the blockbuster world of Center-earth. Though he had finished “a wee bit” of highschool drama whereas rising up in Canterbury, on New Zealand’s South Island, he had no severe appearing 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 major characters are dwarves or hobbits.
“I’m a rustic boy. I come from a rural setting,” Beattie tells Polygon. “From having no expertise. I couldn’t have gotten kicked extra within the deep finish, let’s put it that manner.”
Initially, Beattie was employed to do horse stunts. (“I did that for 2 weeks and out of all the things I’ve finished, my god, that was harmful.”) Nevertheless, 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 enjoying a dwarf, was the tallest member of the primary forged at 6’1”. However as soon as it grew to become clear that the facial prosthetics wanted to carry Gimli to life triggered a nasty allergy in Rhys-Davies’ pores and skin, Beattie grew to become the go-to Gimli.
“I’m conscious that a whole lot of the folks, even hard-core Lord of the Rings followers assume that a whole lot of the pictures are some tough type of digital camera angle or some CGI shrinking John Rhys-Davies down,” Beattie says with a good-natured snort. “I don’t wish to burst anybody’s bubbles, however I can solely consider a few pictures the place 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 1 minute and a half of Gimli struggle scenes and realizing that every one however 4 seconds of the montage had been him. Beattie says he spent 189 days — some 2,300 hours — as Gimli, all instructed.
His time on set was not with out incident. Simply final month, Beattie received his third knee reconstruction surgical procedure, a consequence of getting blown each knees whereas filming the films. “The surgeon was asking me how I received these accidents, and I used to be like, ‘Effectively, I used to be 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 pinnacle. Whereas holding one of many heavier, extra detailed prop axes for a close-up shot of Gimli operating, Beattie tried to toss the weapon from one hand to the opposite.
“I clipped my forehead on the best way previous. As a result of I used to be sporting a prosthetic masks, the blood couldn’t get out. So the blood constructed up and constructed up below the masks till, ultimately, an eye-bag which was glued on really ruptured and the blood simply began spurting out,” he remembers. “It seemed quite a bit worse than it really was.”
Even after they weren’t turning into blood balloons, these facial prosthetics had been quite a bit to endure. The dimensions doubles enjoying 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 within 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 at least 12 hours a day, generally extra.
“A variety 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 really seen a man ask to place it on and he was getting claustrophobic and needed to take it off.”
In the direction of the tip of filming, Beattie was operating on fumes — figuratively and actually, when you think about that he was basically sweating out the chemical adhesives used to connect the Gimli prosthetics. He and his prosthetic artist Tami Lane had been regularly the primary folks on set within the early hours of the morning to get him able to shoot, after which he’d have bother sleeping on account 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 following factor I knew I’d be operating by Fangorn Forest or the Mines of Moria getting chased by goblins,” he remembers. “I wasn’t awake, I wasn’t asleep, I simply ended up on this actually loopy state of consciousness.”
Beattie was doing far, excess of he ever imagined he could be when he first received concerned with the Lord of the Rings movies, and he was actually going above and past what one may count on from a typical stunt performer. The remainder of the forged knew it, too. That is the place the tattoo is available in, in addition to a number of the extra unsavory features of moviemaking.
With the encouragement of his seasoned film star forged 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 effort and time he’d put into Gimli. The producers agreed, saying that he was going to be listed within the credit as Gimli’s stunt, scale, and picture double. However per week later, he was instructed that he really couldn’t be given the display screen credit score, on account of “film politics’’ and “considerations about preserving the phantasm that’s Gimli.” Beattie is listed within the credit, however simply as a stunt performer. (Sean Astin’s guide about his time filming Lord of the Rings, There and Again Once more: An Actor’s Story, confirms that Beattie virtually received co-credit for enjoying Gimli.)
Beattie is hesitant to inform this story. As crushing because the bait-and-switch was, he holds no grudges, understands the impulse to guard Gimli as a personality, and he doesn’t wish to rock the boat or trigger an issue within the Lord of the Rings world. Nonetheless, the dearth of a correct display screen credit score was a disappointment after all the things he’d put into the films. The forged picked up on this. Whereas Rhys-Davies is usually quoted as saying he despatched Beattie to get a tattoo in his stead, Beattie says — and There and Again Once more: An Actor’s Story corroborates — that it was really the remainder of the forged who reached out to him.
“I bear in mind Elijah Wooden really approached me first and invited me. And to inform you the reality, my largest concern on the time was John Rhys-Davies. I knew that this wasn’t presupposed to be for me to be requested to get this tattoo. So I stated I had to consider it,” Beattie explains, including that he relented when Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom requested him once more the next day.
So, on a Sunday afternoon, Beattie, Mortensen, Bloom, Wooden, 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, “Little question about it.”
Beattie’s solely remorse is what occurred after. “After we received the tattoos, Elijah says to me, ‘Myself and some of the forged members are going into Peter Jackson’s armory as we speak, um, to play with machine weapons. Come.’” Nonetheless completely exhausted from the pains of the shoot, he declined.
“I virtually really feel like I owe the forged some type of an apology for not digging deeper and making that effort,” Beattie admits. “I spent a whole lot of time on set with the forged as knowledgeable working. I spent a whole lot of time with primarily Viggo and Orlando socializing and fishing, however I didn’t have a lot to do with the [hobbit actors] or Peter Jackson. It was all very skilled and that was a chance to get to satisfy them and them to get them to satisfy me and not using a masks glued to my face.”
Regardless of lacking out on some machine-gun bonding, Beattie remains to be endlessly a member of this particular fellowship. He’s not in contact with the opposite actors anymore, although Bloom made a particular effort to trace him down and catch up after they each labored on the Hobbit movies. These days, Beattie, who labored with EA Video games on the Lord of the Rings video video games after filming and nonetheless takes the occasional stunt function from time to time, 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.
Regardless of being considered (if he’s considered in any respect) as merely “Gimli’s stunt double,” Beattie is happy with what he achieved through the making of the movies. “I knew I’d finished one thing more durable than I’d ever finished in my life, and I knew I’d by no means work that arduous once more,” 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.
Enjoying 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 within the morning for the house beginning of his first little one, 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. Inside 24 hours, he was again residence holding his child in his arms.
“There aren’t too many individuals who’ve been jumped by a warg, killed an orc, and delivered a child all in the identical day,” Beattie says with a smile.