Gimli stunt double, Brett Beattie, details his injuries & close calls due to stunts and prosthetics during his time working on The Lord of the Rings.
Gimli the dwarf stunt double, Brett Beattie’s blood and sweat earned him the opportunity to become a member of the tattoo fellowship with other key cast members of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Running from 2001-2003, the movie trilogy based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel of the same name eventually went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture with its final entry, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Given the length of time spent together, the central Lord of the Rings cast spent a great amount of time together. The film adaptations of this source material required plenty of big action set pieces, including a lot of dangerous stunt work. Actor John Rhys-Davies is the actor credited for playing Gimli across the movie trilogy, although Beattie performed as both his stunt and size double. Being a black belt in martial arts, an experienced horseback rider, and being 4’10” tall, all contributed to him being a good fit for the job. Beattie was originally hired to do horse stunts, but soon got the part as the 6’1″ actor’s stand in. Despite the fact that almost 18 years have passed since The Return of the King was released, Beattie has not spoken with the media about his experiences on set, until now.
Polygon reports that Beattie still suffers from some of the old battle wounds that he incurred during the filming of this trilogy. All considered, he spent 189 days, or around 2,300 hours, as Gimli over the course of shooting. He recently got his third knee reconstruction surgery, as he blew out both of his knees while filming the movies. Beattie humorously recalled “The surgeon was asking me how I got those injuries, and I was like, ‘Well, I was battling Uruk-hai at Helm’s Deep.” He mentioned other close calls, including a sinking canoe, nearly getting hit by horse hooves, and taking a heavily-detailed prop axe to the head. Read more of what Beattie said below:
I clipped my brow on the way past. Because I was wearing a prosthetic mask, the blood couldn’t get out. So the blood built up and built up under the mask until, eventually, an eye-bag which was glued on actually ruptured and the blood just started spurting out. It looked a lot worse than it actually was.
The facial prosthetics were a lot to endure on set, as the scale doubles playing the hobbits would need to remove their masks after an hour. However, Beattie was wearing more than 4 pounds of prosthetics on his face for a minimum of 12 hour workdays. He took naps on set, but upon being woken up when he was needed for a scene, he recalled “I wasn’t awake, I wasn’t asleep, I just ended up in this really crazy state of consciousness.” Despite all of the hard work he put in, “movie politics” resulted in him not being able to receive screen credit directly for the role, as producers mentioned “preserving the illusion that is Gimli.” However, other members of the cast reached out to Beattie to join them in all getting a tattoo of an elvish numeral engraved on their bodies. He summed up that “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.”
The folks who are involved in stunt work rarely get the recognition that they deserve. Their work is often quite dangerous and without their willingness to take these risks, countless iconic films would simply not have been possible. Rhys-Davies delivers a good performance as Gimli in The Lord of the Rings, although transparency for the hard work of folks like Beattie should be normalized. He is justly included as a member of the tattoo fellowship.