Rhys Davies is a tall imposing man whose voice is able to annunciate a room with ease, when he speaks you listen!
'Before we begin, no I don't have Orlando Bloom's number, sorry!! Was his first comment!
When he was a younger man Rhys-Davies had a serious accident and a series of operations resulted in him having one leg longer than the other which in itself leads to back discomfort. In a subsequent panel, actor Michelle Harrison (Flash) remarked 'I was sitting next to him signing autographs & he was in obvious discomfort, despite this when disabled fans were not able to make it to his table he would get up, sign an autograph and have a talk with them'. I was also fortunate to see this and it was great to see.
Our first question in the panel related to Rhys-Davies role in the television series Sliders and whether there would ever be a reunion. He admitted that he would be open to doing this but doesn't think it will ever happen.
'They (the studio) could have had the greatest show on television at that time if they wanted, the truth is that they didn't realise what they had (the show had a troubled production history), it's a great shame'. He alluded to the fact that there was too much meddling from Fox and that more autonomy should have been given to the makers to create the series they wanted.
Star Trek Voyager
Rhys-Davies famously played the holographic projection of Leonardo da Vinci in Voyager and spoke about his experience on the show - 'I had done Indiana Jones and lots of films but when my children found out that I had been cast in Star Trek they said Dad, now you've finally made it!' (Much laughter in the audience).
He revealed that is was Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway) who had suggested and pushed for a character like this in the show (the original idea was to have the opera singer Pavarotti star).
Rhys-Davies was complimentary about the production 'they were a well tuned group, TV isn't about mine or any one performance, it's about a group or building a show around a small group and they did that very well'. He denied being approached for any Star Trek films.
Talk inevitability moved onto Rhys-Davies role as Sallah in the Indy films and his casting in it.
'I read the script and it mainly read as a series of action pieces and I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it. I thought it was either going to be great or terrible, I just didn't know'.
'There was a lot of pressure on Steve (Spielberg) after 1941 (the WW2 comedy which famously bombed at the box office) to get this right' (I think we can all agree he did!).
'Harrison was marvellous but I think the best part and performance was that of Paul's (Paul Freeman who played bad guy Dr. Rene Belloq) his role was nunaced, charming and intellectually challenging'.
Rhys-Davies also takes about his other co-stars including Ronald Lacey, who played Major Arnold Toht and who sadly died at the age of 55 due to cancer - 'Before Indy Ronald was an actor who couldn't get work, he tried but he couldn't land a role. Dissatisfied with his agent he spoke to other actor friend who were in the same position and said look why don't I give up on acting and become an agent for all of you as I know what it's like to be out of work. They all agreed and three months later Ronald was cast in Indy and then had loads of offers for work, they never forgave him!' (lots of laugher).
On Spielberg, Rhys-Davies summarised 'at that time with that film and his others he was a young mozart, something within him just knew how to direct. A great director knows it all, they know their history, drama and have seen a lot of films, Steven has all of these'.
Lord Of The Rings
With time running out Rhys-Davies was about to talk about LOTR very briefly.
On Peter Jackson he compared him somewhat to Spielberg and said that he is one of the greatest directors we currently have. 'Peter has done more for New Zealand then Captain Cook' he quipped.
Much like Indy, he praised the ensemble nature of the production and very kindly spoke some lines in Gimli's district accent.
With that the talk wrapped.