Tanja Vucicevic (for “Gloria”): If my eyes aren’t playing tricks on me, you seem to have lost considerable weight.
JRD: This was the first time that I had to be “widened” for the screen, as my rounded figure had thinned a little. If I’d know how good that felt, I’d have lost weight sooner. I don’t have a problem with showing the scars on my leg that remain after a plane accident, or talk about how I lost the tip of my middle finger, but kilos were always a painful issue. I was tired of being a burly fellow playing fat and likeable characters. I hope I am still likeable, although slimmer. The chubby don’t have it easy, trust me. We can all hardly wait to get rid of extra weight.
Gloria: Is it true that the director Peter Jackson had to talk you into accepting the role of the Dwarf Gimli in “The Fellowship of the Ring”?
JRD: I had my doubts about whether he’d manage to pull off the gigantic project that took two years of filming in New Zealand. But now that the film has been proclaimed as one of the best of all time, I am thankful to my son who told me I’d make a huge mistake if I declined the part.
Gloria: Weren’t you after another role in “The Lord of the Rings”?
JRD: I wanted the part of Boromir’s father who, influenced by the power of darkness, plunges into despair and thinks it useless to fight against the evil lord of Mordor. But that character doesn’t appear in the sequel “The Two Towers”. I wasn’t supposed to give that away, but there you have it. Since I’ve already blurted that out, I’ll also admit I was shocked to learn that Peter Jackson had envisioned me a Dwarf. I am six feet tall, tallest of the actors playing the Fellowship, and I of all was selected to play the little Gimli. I was correct in guessing I wouldn’t have the easiest time with make-up. The transformation took five hours every day, fourteenmonths straight. I ended up with an allergy to the glue that held Gimli’s mask to my face. My skin started peeling off after six months and in the end there was nothing to glue the mask to. I took to resting for a day or two after every couple of scenes. That was the only solution, because stopping the filming, as my doctor advised me, was out of the question. After I heroically endured all that and returned to Los Angeles, my friends asked, “Where the hell have you been? We thought you retired.” Of course, it was soon clear that my career was not over and I still had a lot to do.
Gloria: How did they make you appear smaller in the film?
JRD: Cinematic tricks, ranging from the simplest – using the camera from below, which optically shortens people – to filming alongside Tall Paul, an ex basketball player from New Zealand next to whom even I looked tiny.