Actor John Rhys-Davies pulled double duty for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series. He portrayed the dwarf warrior Gimli while also voicing the ancient Ent named Treebeard.
In a new interview with Comicbookmovie, Rhys-Davies said Treebeard was especially difficult to perform because he had to find a way to give a voice to a character who has no lungs.
“Treebeard is one of the very few parts that I’ve had that I wake up in a sweat at night thinking, ‘I don’t know how to play this,'” he explained. “The hardest part I’ve ever done. I don’t know how to play it, and it’s not right. It’s not the way it is in the book … I could find no way … how the hell do you voice something that has no lungs?”
At East European Comic Con in 2013, Rhys-Davies said he also struggled with how Treebeard speaks and acts so slowly.
“When you read it on the page of the book you can imagine the slowness of it, but your eye is moving quickly. In film, you just have to get a move on,” Rhys-Davies said. “The more I worried about it, I started losing sleep over it.”
Rhys-Davies said he experimented with all different kinds of voices for Treebeard, including slowing it down so much that he was basically making whale noises. He also worked on a version of Treebeard that was a combination of various tree-like elements such as the tree-rattle of leaves and the suction sound of roots coming out of the ground. However, this approach didn’t work out either, and he went on and on and got nowhere, Rhys-Davies said.
In the end, Rhys-Davies settled on a voice for Treebeard that came across as gentle and old, while also communicating an element of power and strength. He’s still not satisfied.
“Of all the parts I’ve ever done, I think that was probably the least successful one. I don’t think I got that right. And I don’t know how I could have got it better,” Rhys-Davies said.
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