Sunday Star Times
February 4, 2000

Cars the Driving Force with Rings Star
Barry Clarke

WHEN John Rhys-Davies is not running around playing lead roles in such blockbusters as Raiders of the Lost Ark, you'll probably find him under a car bonnet.

The 55-year-old English actor, in New Zealand for Lord of the Rings, is an unabashed car lover. In fact, if he wasn't making his money in the movies, he says he'd probably be working as a mechanic or engineer somewhere in Britain.

On Friday, Rhys-Davies took time out from his Lord of the Rings commitments -- he is playing Gimli the dwarf -- to visit the Southward car museum in Paraparaumu. He also hopes to get to the Royal and Sun Alliance international veteran and vintage car rally at Mystery Creek, Hamilton, next month.

Rhys-Davies has been in New Zealand since last September and finishes filming at the end of this year.

He was in Queenstown when the floods came in November, but the ordeal hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for the place.

"Not at all. I have fond memories, including climbing into my hotel by step ladder," he laughs.

Rhys-Davies did not immediately jump at the offer to play a part in the Lord of the Rings. He had been involved with the television epic War and Remembrance which took 18 months to film, and he was unsure if he wanted to be part of another large project.

But New Zealand director Peter Jackson convinced him, and Rhys-Davies is now glad he did.

"This is going to be an extraordinary film," he says. "I think the publicity it will generate for New Zealand will be huge.

"Crocodile Dundee brought millions more tourists for Australia. I think Lord of the Rings will do the same for New Zealand."