John Rhys-Davies is one of the stars of the new faith-and-family friendly action–adventure film Beyond the Mask, now in theaters across the nation. The Welsh actor, best known for his roles in such iconic films as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Lord of the Rings, relishes this opportunity to play the “evil villain.” In this third of a three-part series to inspire churches, John talks about his own spiritual journey and hopes for the film.
When John Rhys-Davies first read the script for Beyond the Mask
—and, in particular, as he considered the role of Charles Kemp—he delighted in the prospect of playing a man “with no moral compass whatsoever.”
The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts trained actor often finds himself in such supportive roles as the Dwarf warrior Gimli from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth “fellowship” and faithful sidekick Sallah in two of the Indiana Jones
films. He relished the opportunity to show his “dark side” as a dangerous, manipulative schemer—“a villain in the first order.”
As the story unfolds, Kemp double-crosses Will Reynolds, the leading mercenary for the British East India Company, when Reynolds has a change of heart. Reynolds then goes on the run in the American colonies. Working to redeem his name and win back the woman with whom he’s never been fully honest, he takes up a mask in hopes of thwarting his former employer’s evildoings.
Along the way, Beyond the Mask
is “a faith-filled adventure celebrating grace, liberty, and the true freedom that can only be found in Christ.” The hope is that moviegoers will not only be entertained but inspired to know redemption is possible, no matter what’s tripped them up in the past or caused them to lose their moral compass.
As for John Rhys-Davies, he admits that everyone is on a spiritual journey, and that the words of the desperate dad in the Bible well summarize his faith journey, as he quotes from the King James: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
“There’s a vastness out there that we can’t even begin to imagine,” he says, adding that “the sheer size of the universe” leaves him no doubt that there is a God.
He says he’s even been challenged by Nobel-Prize winners who question his defense of faith. “My answer is this,” he says. “Imagine now that you were God, and you want to explain something to Moses or anybody like this. How are you going to do it? Are you going to say, ‘At the event horizon, at ten to the minus three-hundred-and-sixty-thousandth second, there was—’ Oh, you don’t know what a second is; oh, wait a minute, you don’t actually get the part about the ‘event horizon.’
“Okay, scrub that Moses,” John says. “Start again, take this down, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void.’ ”
While he questions whether he’s “good enough” to call himself a Christian, John respects and readily quotes Jesus. He observes that Christianity is founded upon “extraordinary” and “revolutionary” concepts. Among them, he cites the following: “Bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you . . . love thy neighbor as thyself.”
In terms of the bottom line of Beyond the Mask
, director Chad Burns says it’s all about helping reach people—especially young people—“with a message of hope and of finding their identity in Christ.” Thus, he wants to get word out to pastors and church leaders everywhere that the main reason for making this movie is to advance the Gospel.
When it comes to the spiritual journey, his own and others’, John concludes with the words of Solomon: “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). To all in a quest to find a moral compass, he suggests, “I think that that’s the right dance between man and God.”
Dean Ridings is communication director and a representative of Navigator Church Ministries. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click on the titles to read the previous blogs in this series, "Hollywood and the Church" and “Who Do You Think You Are?”
As we shook hands at the end of our interview, John pulled me close, looked me in the eye, and said, “Pray for my soul.” As I nodded, he continued to cite what he later told me was from Alfred Tennyson’s “The Passing of Arthur.” Perhaps this will encourage and inspire you as well:
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
[Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology
, 1837–1895. 1895. "The Passing of Arthur." Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron (1809–92). From “Idylls of the King,” lines 54-63.]