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When New Line Cinema agreed to give director Peter Jackson nearly $300 million to make The Lord of the Rings, the studio had no idea whether this risk would pay off. Alas, Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure became a cinematic phenomenon. With Amazon’s upcoming TV series aiming to continue the franchise, the bar remains set high. After all, The Lord of the Rings features such a gifted cast that even some fans might not realize one actor plays two key roles in the trilogy.

Bernard Hill, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Billy Boyd, John Noble, and John Rhys-Davies wear suits and pose with their Screen Actors Guild Awards for ‘The Lord Of the Rings: The Return of the King’
Bernard Hill, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Billy Boyd, John Noble, and John Rhys-Davies | KMazur/WireImage for Turner

‘The Lord of the Rings’ changed cinema in an epic way

When The Lord of the Rings hit theaters, fantasy films were far from mainstream. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone released just a month before The Fellowship of the Ring. But besides that, there wasn’t much precedent for an epic fantasy of this scale to connect with audiences. And since Jackson shot the trilogy simultaneously, the studio might have been forced to release two more box office bombs if Jackson’s vision had fallen flat.

Instead, The Lord of the Rings became not only a commercial success — earning more than $1 billion just domestically, according to — but a resounding critical hit as well. All in all, the trilogy went on to win 17 Academy Awards, including Best Picture for The Return of the King. And even then, many fans believe some aspects of what Jackson accomplished, such as Andy Serkis’ motion-capture work as Gollum, deserved more love.

John Rhys-Davies plays two characters in the trilogy

In addition to Serkis, another notable cast member is John Rhys-Davies. Throughout The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the actor — who also appears as Sallah in two Indiana Jones films — plays the dwarf Gimli. The character is a key member of the fellowship who sets out to deliver Frodo (Elijah Wood) to Mount Doom. Alas, the group is separated, and Gimli goes on a parallel journey with Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom).

But in The Two Towers, Rhys-Davies plays a second character. While Gimli’s story continues elsewhere, the actor provides the voice for Treebeard, a tree-like creature known as an Ent. In that film, Treebeard befriends Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd). He ultimately convinces the Ents to rise up against Saruman (Christopher Lee), imprisoning the dark wizard in his tower.


Why ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ Didn’t Finish Filming Until After Its Release

The actor rejected a chance to appear in ‘The Hobbit’

Given Rhys-Davies’ gift at disappearing into a role, some fans might wonder why he didn’t return as yet another character for Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. Indeed, as he told Empire magazine, the production team asked Rhys-Davies to return, perhaps as Gimli’s father Gloin. But the actor turned down the opportunity to return to Middle-earth.

“I’ve already been asked [to appear in The Hobbit], and to be honest with you, I wouldn’t. I have already completely ruled it out. There’s a sentimental part of me that would love to be involved again. Really, I am not sure my face can take that sort of punishment anymore.”

In addition, Rhys-Davies didn’t want to play just another dwarf, as The Hobbit centers on a group of 13 of them. And given the less enthusiastic reception for that trilogy compared to The Lord of the Rings, the actor might be glad he stayed out of those movies. Still, a cameo or supporting role on the Amazon show could be fun.