Edmonton

Lord of the Rings 'Gimli' actor speaks about fame and fondness for his fans

Fan conventions are no longer a place for "lonely souls" and closeted nerds, says acclaimed actor John Rhys-Davies, who is in Edmonton for the city's biggest comic expo next weekend.

Acclaimed Welsh actor John Rhys-Davies will be Edmonton next weekend

John Rhys-Davies is best known as warrior dwarf Gimli in Lord of the Rings. (New Line Cinema)

Fan conventions are no longer a place for "lonely souls" and closeted nerds, says acclaimed actor John Rhys-Davies, who is in Edmonton for the city's biggest comic expo next weekend.

"In the old days, there were always one or two people in any town or village who loved science-fiction, loved the idea of being able to dress up like a Star Trekker or something like that," Rhys-Davies, 72, said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"They would go to these conventions and they would discover that they weren't the only lonely souls in all of Canada that liked to do it.

"These things have moved into the mainstream and it's fascinating to watch."

'Fandom, it's a very odd thing'

Rhys-Davies should know. With roles in blockbuster adventure films like Lord of the Rings and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Welshman is a target for arguably the most fanatic fans in modern cinema.

He's been to countless conventions during his storied 50-year career. Rhys-Davies said he loves going to conventions because he gets to meet real people, "the people who have been paying my bills."

John Rhys-Davies, whose credits include Raiders of the Lost Ark and Lord of the Rings, will be appearing at the Edmonton Expo. (The Canadian Press)
But these gatherings used to be a lot more awkward for the man best known as the curmudgeonly dwarf warrior Gimli in Lord of the Rings and the occasionally cowardly Arab excavator Sallah in Indiana Jones.

"When I first went to fan conventions, there were still an awful lot of people that you really wanted to say, 'Get a life would you?' These days there are very few people like that," Rhys-Davis said with a dry chuckle.

"Fandom, it's a very odd thing."

'I've been lucky'

Rhys-Davies has appeared in dozens of acclaimed titles. He has more than 250 credits to his name.

He played Pilot Vasco Rodrigues in the mini-series Shōgun, Professor Arturo in Sliders, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood, and Macro in I, Claudius.

He's also an accomplished voice actor.

In addition to voicing the Ent Treebeard in Lord of the Rings, he provided the voices of Cassim in Disney's Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Macbeth in Gargoyles, and Man Ray in SpongeBob SquarePants, just to name a few.

Rhys-Davies will be signing autographs and hosting a panel convention at the Comic & Entertainment Expo is at the Edmonton Expo Centre Sept. 22 to 24.

Despite his gentle ribbing, he is deeply fond of his fans — whom he describes as "darn smart" — and is both humble and gracious for the success they've afforded him.

"To be part of a great movie is in itself an almost unique experience. We don't get that many chances and if you get one great movie in your lifetime, you're a lucky man.

"And I've been lucky because I've two or three or four at least."

Listen to Edmonton AM with host Mark Connolly, weekday mornings at CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM in Edmonton. Follow the morning crew on Twitter @EdmAMCBC

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