Polygon continued its year-long celebration of Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy with a true gift to fans: The first-ever extensive interview with Gimli stunt double Brett Beattie. While John Rhys-Davies played Gimli and was credited in the film accordingly, Beattie was more than just your average stunt double and said he spent at least 189 days playing Gimli in the trilogy. Beattie was originally hired to do horse stunts but his role evolved into a stand-in actor for Rhys-Davies because his height of 4’10” better resembled a dwarf. Rhys-Davies also had an allergic reaction to the facial prosthetics needed to transform him into Gimli, which only made the production rely more heavily on Beattie.
“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 told Polygon. “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.”
Making “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy took its toll on Beattie, who recently had his third knee reconstruction surgery because he blew both of his knees out during filming. The stunt double said, “The surgeon was asking me how I got those injuries, and I was like, ‘Well, I was battling Uruk-hai at Helm’s Deep.’”
Polygon reported on other close-call injuries Beattie endured, including “a sinking canoe, dodging horse hooves, and taking an ax to the head.” In a scene where Beattie had to throw an ax, he accidentally clipped his brow.
“Because I was wearing a prosthetic mask, the blood couldn’t get out,” Beattie said. “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. It looked a lot worse than it actually was.”
According to Polygon: “The scale doubles playing the hobbits had full rubber masks they could just pull on and take off, and there was an unwritten rule that they couldn’t be in the masks for more than an hour at a time on set. Beattie, meanwhile, had more than 2 kilograms of silicon and foam rubber glued to his face for a minimum of 12 hours a day, sometimes more.”
“A lot of guys couldn’t do it,” Beattie said of wearing the Gimli prosthetics. “I’d actually seen a guy ask to put it on and he was getting claustrophobic and had to take it off.”
Given all of the hard work that went into playing Gimli, even in a stand-in capacity, Beattie asked to have a screen credit, which the producers allegedly told him could happen via “Gimli’s stunt, scale, and photo double” credits. Soon after, he was informed that he would not be getting a credit because of “movie politics’’ and “concerns about preserving the illusion that is Gimli.” Beattie is only listed in the credits as a stunt performer.
Head over to Polygon’s website to read more from Beattie’s interview.