John Rhys-Davies Q&A at GenCon 2003
A HUGE Thanks to HannColl for getting this JRD Transcript down on paper for us! Take a look at part II
Question: My father is into the really old vintage cars, like from the ’50s, like Thunderbirds. I was wondering what your favorite kind of car was.
JRD: Well, you know, for some of us the old vintage cars were a little bit earlier than the ’50s (laughter) I’m a 40’s vintage myself. But as Indiana says, it’s not the year; it’s the mileage, isn’t it? (laughter) There was a period when America made the best cars in the world, unquestionably. I think really that from about 1924 to about the mid-30s they were the best cars in the world. The best design.
Even the Rolls-Royces, the Springfield Rolls-Royces, were just I think the most elegant of all the Rolls-Royces. I’m still a British sports car fan, I mean the Triumphs, the TR-2s and 3s, and I have a Jensen Interceptor convertible as well, which is American power train and Italian design and English construction. It’s a real abortion, in fact, now that you think about it. (laughter) Um, but my favorite American car would probably.oh, I don’t know; I mean there’s so many of them, I mean the Duesenbergs and the [inaudible].I mean, just breathtakingly beautiful things. But practically.yeah, a T-Bird would be nice. I like the new T-Bird; have you seen the new T-Bird? Oh, I’d love to have one. If Father Christmas is nice to me this year (looks up) Are you listening up there? (laughter) You could give me a wee T-Bird. (laughter)
Question: This charming young woman had a question for you that she wanted to give you, so uh, having been immortalized in film several times over, was it a new experience for you to become an interactive character in a video game?
JRD: Well, video games are extraordinary things, aren’t they? I’m not very good with those interactive games basically because I’m not very good with computers.
I’ve had every damned Macintosh and then before that I had a Sinclair, and we had the Acorn, the BBC Acorn before, but the Sinclair was 1980, wasn’t it? 1981? But I realized that.I don’t even know why I bother to upgrade these things, because all I use it for is basically a word processor. And I’m a hunt-and-peck man anyway, so (demonstrates typing with two fingers) (laughter) I’m in agony. It’s agonizing; it takes me a day to write a letter. I need a secretary. I need someone who writes fast (several audience members raise their hands to volunteer for the position) Oh! (laughter)
Moderator: I think you’ll find no shortage of volunteers (laughter)
JRD: But I tell you what, I did once see a keyboard that I’m told was developed by an actor. Unfortunately what they wanted to do was to sort of own everything, all the rights and the marketing rights. It was an amazing thing. It consisted of six keys and you could do everything with six keys, and the keyboard was actually shaped like that (holds up hand in palm-out position with fingers spread) with a command key and..as I said, six keys. So the vowels were (counts off on fingers) a, e, I, o, u. L, if you looked at it was actually like that (holds up thumb and first finger in L position). You could learn the keyboard – I learned the keyboard in 45 minutes. I’d never been able to type so fast as with that little keyboard. And it’s so interesting because it’s one of those little inventions that should’ve swept the world, and because of wrong decisions and bad marketing, no one’s ever heard of it and no one’s seen it. It is better to own 2 percent of $100,000,000 than 100 percent of nothing. Bear that in mind when you’re brilliant and innovative, because this thing should’ve swept the world. I can’t even remember what the name of it was now, and I’ve got two, but they don’t work anymore because you can’t get batteries. But God, they were good. And..what was the question, anyway? (laughter)
Question: The question was about becoming an interactive character in a video game and the difference from being immortalized on film.
JRD: Well, I suppose the difference is that you could end dying in a film in which you hadn’t actually thought about dying in. But, you lose control of it, I suppose.
You just say the lines and the computer wizards do what they do and you have lost the character. I mean, your character is somebody else’s imagining. But it’s all right.why not? There are 2,000 different ways that we can explore the world of entertainment and delight ourselves; let’s do it.
Question: Actually I have two questions. The first might be lengthy, but.when you were playing Gimli, how did you end up playing Treebeard as well and what did you do to make them two separate characters? And the other question is, a group of us have a birthday card for Billy Boyd and we would like to know if you would sign it for us.
JRD: It would be my pleasure to sign a card for Billy Boyd. (mumbles) Bloody little hobbit gets more bloody parties than I’ve ever had. (laughter) Bloody hobbits, they get everywhere, don’t they? (Gimli voice) But you’ve got to be nice to them because they’re hobbits. No one ever stomped on a hobbit and got away with it. (laughter) It’s the pity factor. (laughter) (regular voice) But anyway, um.yeah, do you want me to sign that damned card? (laughter) (signs card) Now the other question.well
Peter just said to me one day, ‘Do you want to do the voice of Treebeard as well?’ and I said ‘Oh, yes, go on.’ I have never had more trouble with a character than that, ’cause when you read it, I see this works in my imagining but gosh did it feel risky and dangerous because there’s a cartoon quality about [Treebeard], you know, the walking talking tree and how do you make him real? How do you make him believable? I mean, how does a tree talk? So we tried everything; we spent hours and hours of trying to sort of (demonstrates) breathe on the intake. Oh, and he’s slow, I mean he’s in.finite.ly slow.and how the hell do you make that work on film? In film, we get it instantly – ‘OK, it’s a slow character, what’s he say? Next!’
So, one has to get the suggestion of the slowness.it’s a very slow mental process that he is.delving into – he’s the oldest living thing on Earth. He remembers more than any of us ever will. And to get that over and at the same time have the age of the character and have the energy, the elemental rage of the character sometimes.Well, we tried everything. We tried.I wanted to make a layered effect of the (demonstrates) deep rumbling sounds and then (demonstrates) leaves just whishing away in the wind and layer them all together we tried it and it was just muddied. In the end we went back to our very early experiment of just almost doing it straight. And then the thing was to make it not sound too much like Gimli. The other thing is of course because he is a moving tree, he might have bits of accents from different parts of the country, and we tried it that way, with a bit of Lancashire and a bit of West Country and a bit of Wales and a bit of Scots. And with all these experiments they were interesting but in the end you have to make a decision. And if it works, I take full credit, and if it doesn’t work, blame Peter Jackson! (laughter and applause)
Question: My question actually goes back to Wales since you obviously have a strong identity with Wales and somewhat with Celts in general. How do you feel about the current drive, however limited, in Scotland for political autonomy from England? Do you see that as being at all realistic or would you in Wales see anything of that sort being attempted?
JRD: No, in Wales we really are quite adamant that.really don’t see ourselves as.we are an independent people anyway, we are an independent culture, we have our own language. We certainly don’t see the breakup of the United Kingdom as being a benefit to anybody, and we see it as a real disadvantage, actually. Scots independence? I think.it might make sense for them, but I think it’s a disaster for the rest of us, really. Do you realize how much blood was shed uniting the kingdom? I don’t know; I see that there’s a process going on in Europe of breaking Britain down into sort of small, easily-divided communities and I think this is very deliberately designed to eliminate Britain from having any real say in Europe. But I’m talking politics now and I shouldn’t be talking politics, but I think it’s a disaster.
Question: You said before that at RADA you wasted your time there, and I was wondering if that was just a personal thing because I was actually thinking of applying at RADA.
JRD: Well, you should do it because you are intelligent, bright and will be very successful. I was an idiot who didn’t know how to learn to rehearse. (laughter) Rehearsal was that awkward period between reading the script and getting out there and doing it. There’s a difference between performers and real actors and I’ve got a lot of that performer in me. Real actors love the rehearsal period, and I sort of just get antsy just practicing [inaudible] and things like that.
There’s a compulsive chemistry that happens when the camera is rolling or when you’re onstage with a real audience and then you really have to burn energy and I find it easy in performance and I don’t much care for it in rehearsal. But then, I’m not a real actor by that definition. Ian loves rehearsal. He probably loves rehearsal.well, maybe I should leave it for him to say, but I suspect that he’s one of the sort of actors who actually prefers the rehearsal period to the actual performing, which is perverse, but. (laughter) [inaudible] is a bit peculiar.
But do go to RADA; it’s a very good school. But use the time there. I mean, do all the things that you don’t like doing. I remember Richard Harris saying, “For God’s sake, when you get there, do some singing, do some dancing, even if you never intend to do a musical,” he said, “because sometimes they ask you to do one.” And he was quite good, actually. I hated singing and dancing. I got thrown out of my makeup class basically because I was very shortsighted at the time and had these big glasses. I’d take the glasses off and put the makeup on couldn’t see a damned thing so you just thicken the lines up until you actually sort of looked like a bit of a gargoyle, really. They thought I was taking the mickey. But good luck; go there. I give you a future star. (applause)
[Transcriber’s note: at this point Sean Astin came onto the stage and fell to his knees before JRD, then bent and kissed his foot. He then stood up and the two embraced.]
(cheers and applause)
JRD: I give you a future Oscar nominee (cheers, SA shakes his head ‘no’), future president of the Screen Actors’ Guild (more cheers, SA gives a ‘sounds good’ nod) a future Governor of California (cheers, SA pumps his fist in the air) and a candidate for the [presidency] of the United States. (loud cheers)
SA, in Sallah voice: Indy! They are digging in the wrong place! (laughter) (sings a bit from Sallah’s song) .bad dates. (laughter and applause) (regular voice) I would do that on the set every time that John came on and finally one day, after the 4,000th time I did that he said (JRD voice) ‘you know Sean, my dear boy, it borders on parody’. (laughter and applause)
JRD: And if you CAN slip them Orlando Bloom’s phone number (cheers, one audience member yells ‘we don’t want it!’) it would really piss him off. (laughter)
Moderator: One last round of applause for John Rhys-Davies (loud cheers and applause)Posted in Old Special Reports on July 31, 2003 by xoanon