The name Brett Beattie probably isn't one you recognize, and even if you saw him, you would say you hadn't seen him in any movies. However, if you have spent any amount of time in the company of Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings trilogy, then you have actually seen a lot more of him than you think. Beattie worked as John Rhys-Davies' scale double and stunt double in the three movies, playing Gimli the Dwarf for 2300 hours of the film shoot.
For the last twenty years, Brett Beattie has never talked to the media about his work on the Tolkien epic, and even now he has spoken about his experiences for the first time, there is still something very humble about the 4 foot 10 actor who went into the Middle Earth saga with very little in the way of acting experience behind him. Speaking to Polygon, he said, "I'm a country boy. I come from a rural environment. From having no experience. I couldn't have gotten kicked more in the deep end, let's put it that way."
Hired for his horse riding abilities, it was about two weeks into filming that he was suddenly thrust into a different role; doubling for John Rhys-Davies as a stunt and scale double, and his appearances in the role became much more frequent than expected when Rhys-Davies suffered a skin allergy to the prosthetics required to play the gruff dwarf.
With the heavy prosthetics hiding most of the actor's face, telling the difference between the real Giml and his double is pretty much impossible for anyone other than Beattie, who remembered watching a YouTube video of fight scenes from the movies involving Gimli and realizing that only four seconds out of the ninety second clip did not feature him in the role.
"I am aware that a lot of the people, even hardcore 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 said. "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."
During his time working on the movies, Beattie sustained numerous injuries including head cuts from being hit by prop axes and blowing both knees, which led to a total of three knee reconstruction surgeries, the latest of which was only completed last month. To add to the hardships he underwent without complaint, unlike many of the hobbit scale doubles who wore simple rubber masks during their scenes, Beattie would be wearing over two kilos of foam rubber and silicone for up to 12 hours a day and had to be on set with his prosthetic artist before pretty much anyone else. The grueling and continuous schedule caused him to suffer insomnia, meaning he would usually end up sleeping on the set between takes.
"I'd get woken up - 'Brett, you're on!' - and the next thing I knew, I'd be running through Fangorn Forest or the Mines of Moria getting chased by goblins," he explained. "I wasn't awake, I wasn't asleep; I just ended up in this really crazy state of consciousness."
While Beattie was originally going to be listed as Gimli's stunt, scale and photo double, he was later told that due to the studio wanting to "preserve the illusion that is Gimli" and "movie politics" he was simply to be listed as a stunt performer. While Beattie was quick to point out that he has no bad feeling about the lack of credit he received, the cast of the movie were well aware of the effort he had put into his contribution to the trilogy, which led to him getting the tattoo that Rhys-Davies has often been quoted as saying he sent him to get because he did everything to do with danger and blood. Beattie recalled how it was only when the cast asked him multiple times, that he agreed to have the tattoo.
"I remember Elijah Wood actually approached me first and invited me. And to tell you the truth, my biggest concern at the time was John Rhys-Davies. I knew that this wasn't supposed to be for me to be asked to get this tattoo. So I said I had to think about it," he said, reminiscing how it was only being asked the following day by both Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen that he finally gave in.
Beattie went on to say his only real regret was not taking up other offers that the cast made due to still recovering from the exhaustion of the shoot. "After we got the tattoos, Elijah says to me, 'Myself and a few of the cast members are going into Peter Jackson's armory today, um, to play with machine guns. Come.' I almost feel like I owe the cast some sort of an apology for not digging deeper and making that effort," Beattie said regretfully. "I spent a lot of time on set with the cast as a professional working. I spent a lot of time with mainly Viggo and Orlando socializing and fishing, but I didn't have much to do with the [hobbit actors] or Peter Jackson. It was all very professional, and that was an opportunity to get to meet them and to get them to meet me without a mask glued to my face."
Although Beattie has not kept in touch with the actors, he did note that Orlando Bloom made the effort to catch up with him when they worked together on The Hobbit trilogy. Even though he has spent twenty years in anonymity, he is still proud of the work he put into the Lord of The Rings movies. He said, "I knew I'd done something harder than I'd ever done in my life, and I knew I'd never work that hard again." Of that he was correct, as other than the occasional stunt role, he operates a native tree farm in Canterbury, England, but he will never forget the time spent as an integral part of the Fellowship of the Ring. And he has the tattoo to prove it. This news originated at Polygon.