The tall dwarf, Welsh Egyptian dichotomy

Promotional tour … John Rhys-Davies in his Sydney hotel.
Promotional tour … John Rhys-Davies in his Sydney hotel.

John Rhys Davies is a man of many dichotomies.

A Welsh character actor, he is famed for playing an Egyptian Man-Friday style character (Sallah in both Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and a Russian general opposite James Bond in The Living Daylights.

Of course arguably his most famous turn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy might seem geographically closer to home, given Tolkien’s affinity for the British Isles, yet when he played the dwarf Gimli, he was the tallest actor on set.

So it comes as no surprise when his interview as a part of the promotional tour for the Indiana Jones box set covers any and all topics other than the films.

Asked about his experience as Sallah he contemplates that post September 11 the faithful middle Eastern character is out of favour in Hollywood, detours through his character’s proclivity for singing Gilbert & Sullivan to defend the British Empire and colonialism as they abolished slavery, permitting him to recount the tale of when he was a boy in Africa, his father taking him to the docks to see a slave ship bound for Saudi Arabia that the UN prevented him from stopping ... and that’s just the first answer.

Over the course of the following half hour he expresses his belief in collective parenthood, the need for marijuana dealers to receive life sentences “at the very least” and the need to prevent marriage below the age of 26.

A charismatic delight to speak to, Rhys Davies is very similar himself to the currant cake he uses as a metaphor for the first Indiana Jones film - there is so much packed in. Upon receiving the script for Raiders, he says he told his agents that it read like a comic. “This is either going to be one of the biggest disasters of all time, or its going to set a new fashion in film making but either way I’d love to do it.”

Much the same can be said of the chance to talk to this delightful, dissemblight walking dichotomy.

This story The tall dwarf, Welsh Egyptian dichotomy first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.