[Movies] John Rhys-Davies On Playing Sallah in Indiana Jones Films
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 09.17.2012
Plus the Bond film he was in...
IGN spoke with John Rhys-Davies, who played Sallah in the Indiana Jones films, in preparation for the franchise's release on Blu-Ray tomorrow. Check out the highlights:
On whether he was about to bring his own ideas on Sallah to the role: "Oh, very much so. I was a moderately known English character actor, but I had done something called Shogun in Japan, which I think is still actually the second-most successful miniseries of all time. It introduced sushi to North America. Steven had seen it, and he asked to see me and read the script. He said, "Look, you do realize that more people saw Shogun than have seen all my films put together in the cinema? It has been such a worldwide success." He said, "I'd like you to think about playing Sallah for me." I said, "No. It says he's a five-foot-two, skinny Egyptian man. I'm a six-foot-one, 265-pound Welshman. What exactly are you looking for here?" He said, "Oh, don't worry about the script. Basically, what I want is a cross between Rodrigues [his character from Shogun] and Falstaff. Just make it work as an Egyptian." [Laughs] So I thought about it, and yes, I thought that I would make him a missionary-educated Egyptian. I think he's thoughtful. I think he's intelligent. I think he's trapped in his class -- no one thought much of the Egyptian peasant at his time. He's the best digger in Cairo. He's a family man. And I think he's the best digger because he handles his coworkers well. He has low cunning as well as an undeniable loyalty. So to the extent that one could make it into a bit of a buddy movie at that point, I thought, yes, it would be worth trying to push it that way."
On if they created a backstory for Sallah and Indy meeting: "We didn't actually go into it in detail, but we did mention it. It was presumed that we'd had an adventure before that had made the friendship really strong, so that Sallah could become one of the friend on which Indy could depend -- except for little quirks like camels and things like that. I think there's a mixture of loyal friend and -- if I can make a bit on the side, I will, in Sallah. He's not entirely disreputable, but there's an opportunist there as well."
On whether the Timothy Dalton James Bond films (he appeared in Living Daylights) were ahead of their time: "I think in a way they were harder edged than they had been just previous to that. Yes, I personally believe that Daniel is doing a fantastic job. He's gritty, and he's tough. You can see the man thinking, and I always like to see a man thinking in film. Let's not totally dismiss Pierce's contribution. Pierce took it seriously. He went out there and marketed the darn thing, I think. The problem with Pierce is that you can't really see him thinking, which made that sort of type of espionage. And yet, there's a sort of grittiness about Pierce. They're all very interesting and very different. For me, Daniel Craig's is pretty damn good. Tim's -- don't get me wrong, Tim was great -- my problem with Tim's Bond -- and certainly the one that I did with him -- he was too thin. He was lean as a whip. But you get the sense of a street fighter -- there is something of that in the great Bonds, I think. There's a bit of street mean there, a mass behind them that you could punch. You had the slight sense that he was a middle-weight fighting a class above him."