Warwick Davis

Warwick Davis was born on 03 February 1970. His career as an actor came about purely by chance when in 1981 his Grandmother heard a radio announcement calling for people under 4ft tall to appear in the new Star Wars film Return of the Jedi. He was cast as Wicket the Ewok. In 1987, after appearing in two Ewok movies as well as the David Bowie film Labyrinth, Davis was called to a meeting with Ron Howard and George Lucas to talk about a new project called Willow. In this epic 1988 fantasy Davis co-starred with Val Kilmer. Since then Davis has appeared in numerous film, television and theatre roles - most recently as Marvin in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie as well as a number of different characters in the Harry Potter movies and new Star Wars films. Darren Rea caught up with him as the original Star Wars trilogy were due to be reissued on DVD...

Darren Rea: If your grandmother hadn't seen the casting call advertisement for Return of the Jedi what do you think you'd be doing now?

Warwick Davis: My dad was an insurance man, so I may well be selling insurance to people. I enjoy doing graphic work on computers so I may have worked in that sort of area. Something creative - I think I'd have avoided insurance - something artistic and creative still.

DR: You're about the same age as me, 36, so you were obviously aware of the first two Star Wars movies.

WD: Yeah, I went to see the first movie in '77 when it came out. I was a big fan of the movies, and that was part of the reason that my grandmother told my mum about it. As soon as she heard the words: "Star Wars" she was like: "Warwick's always on about Star Wars".

So the fact that I was always going on about it was one of the reasons they thought: "We're going to need to pursue this and see if there's anything that Warwick can do."

DR: How nervous were you when you realised you were going to be starring opposite your heroes?

WD: Not at all. I wouldn't say nerves came into it at all, just excitement. I was 11 and it was like: "Wow! I get to meet these guys. I get to meet Han Solo and Luke Skywalker." To me it was all about the characters and not the actors who were behind the roles. I wouldn't say I was nervous at all. I was just thrilled and excited and it was just a whole new world to me.

DR: Did you have problems convincing your friends that you'd been in the movie?

WD: No, I don't think I did. They would ask a lot of questions, and couldn't figure out how I could get out of school for so long. They'd ask loads of questions about what went on and how was it and that. I don't remember any animosity or anyone not believing me.

DR: You've just finished working with Ricky Gervais on an episode for the second series of Extras. Can you tell us something more about that and how you got involved with that?

WD: It's funny how I became involved with that. I got a phone call about six months before the first series started shooting, so probably about two years ago now. I answered the phone and a voice said: "Hi, it's Ricky Gervais here."

And I said: "Oh, yeah?" [laughs] I thought it was my mate messing about, you see. He carried on talking and I though: "He's having me on here. What's this all about?" And then Ricky laughed and I thought: "Nobody laughs like that. It's got to be him."

I'd heard about Extras and he said: "I want to do an episode with you." He talked me through it and said: "Are you okay with all that?" And I said: "Yeah." And he said: "I just check with people before we write, because we don't want to spend six months writing to find an actor doesn't want to do it."

And I said: "No, I'm up for that. It would be a pleasure."

That never made it into the first series, and so now we come to the second series and here we go. I don't want to tell you anything about the plot of the episode because I think it's something you've got to watch and I don't want to spoil it. I'm in an episode with Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who plays Harry Potter, and you'll see both myself and Dan in a different light - as you do all the actors.

We're playing... I wouldn't say an exaggerated version of ourselves, because we're not really playing ourselves, but it was just a blast to do. I'm a big fan of Ricky's and it was great to get to work with him and Stephen [Merchant] for a week. It was like having a naughty schoolboy having Ricky around [laughs]. He'll do anything to make you laugh. They just know exactly what they are doing with that as well.

That's probably my most exciting thing this year, if not for a few years, doing that. That will be on in late September [2006].

DR: I can't interview you without asking about Willow. When you first heard about that were you surprised that you were going to be cast in a movie as the title role and without some silly mask obscuring your face?

WD: I was on holiday at the time with a friend of mine, whose name is Daniel. Actually he started off as an annoying friend at school who would just constantly go on about Carrie Fisher and pester me. I'd be like: "Yes, she's great. Yeah, I know you're in love with her. Shut up!" He did my head in. But then we became best mates - he was my best man at my wedding.

Anyway, we were on holiday with his parents in Cornwall when I was 16 and my mum phoned up and said: "You've got to get up to London because George Lucas and Ron Howard want to meet you. They want to meet you at Elstree and talk about a film."

So, me and Daniel both went up on the train from Cornwall in the middle of our holiday and met with them. George talked me through this idea and introduced me to Ron and that was that. Meanwhile, George was totally in my camp because he'd written this story with me in mind. Ron, being the director said: "I'm not sure whether Warwick is old enough. We're casting someone here who's the father of two children. He's the hero of the piece. I think he needs to be a bit older."

I was going to play older than 17 anyway, but Ron felt it may have been a stretch. They started the process of auditioning and casting and that went on for some months. I went to a couple of auditions for it, and having George Lucas on your side is quite good.

Eventually, six to eight months later, they got to the point where they were starting to cast for Madmartigan, which Val Kilmer finally played, and I went to America and read in on castings for his character. I saw lots of different actors come through that day - John Cusack was one of them - loads of different actors and I was like: "Oh! It's him!" It was a great time for me seeing who was coming in next.

And Val was one of them and he just trudged in in sandals and a kind of a floppy shirt and shorts. There was an immediate chemistry though, which I think is what they were looking for at that point - somebody that I could work with and we'd have a slight energy between us. After that day they said: "Yeah, Warwick. You've got the part." And I guess they told Val as well.

DR: Do you think after Willow that the Hollywood perception of smaller actors changed?

WD: I hope so. It was the unlikely hero in more ways than one. Within the film story context it was, and also the unlikely hero in an acting/casting sense as well. I'd like to think that it did.

I still think that there's more work to be done in that area. I still think that there are a lot of great short actors out there who are so under used and under realised and it would be nice to have more roles that allow us to act. It can be a little bit frustrating.

I love acting, I love playing character roles, but I'd love to get my teeth into a drama and a good script. Let's tell a story. Let's move the audience.

DR: When the Willow Special Edition DVD was released you did, what we reviewed as possibly the best audio commentary we'd ever heard on a DVD [click here to read the review], with the original theatrical versions of the Star Wars movies being released later this year did you get involved with any of the extras?

WD: No. It would have been nice. I was thinking the other day, when I heard there were going to be commentaries on them: "It would have been great just to jump in just for that scene. I've got so much I could say just about that one scene. There are so many little snippets of information that in the sense of a DVD interview would never be valid, but in a commentary arena would be cool to watch and listen to.

Some commentaries are brilliant, and others are awful aren't they? I watched quite a few before I did my commentary for Willow, just thinking: "What do I like about these commentaries? And what don't I like?" The thing that came across to me on a lot of them, and I don't know if it bothers you, is when people are doing them and their mobile phone rings or they're eating their lunch, or someone is going in and out. And you're thinking: "Why are you bothering to do it?"

I did it by imagining that I was just talking to one other person who is watching this. It's me and them and I'm talking them through the film and I'm totally focussed and that was how I approached it.

DR: And the corny jokes helped as well.

WD: Yeah, [laughs] well... I think you've got to add something extra. I wanted something for the film buffs; I wanted something for the audience that doesn't really care how the films made, but wants silly anecdotes about cast members and all that; you've got to throw a bit at everybody in there.

DR: And there's a bit of nit-picking too. I don't know if you remember, but you jokingly moaned about the Queen's castle and wondered why she didn't have a roof because it was raining inside...

WD: Well, that was annoying! I mean, what's the point of that?!?! She's got her kind of ritual chamber up there and she's got no roof on it. And I spent, however long it was, getting wet. It was a miserable few weeks that was [laughs].

DR: You've got two children now as well, are you enjoying being a father? And would you recommend acting as a career to them?

WD: I do enjoy being a father. Every day is different. Every week they change. It's fascinating. You start to see the world differently through their eyes and it's a nice way to look at the place. I think I've been fed a diet of Disney films for the last nine years. I can't tell you how out of touch I am with what else is out there in the cinema. But I wouldn't change a thing.

They're both, even my three year old, very out going and very theatrical, I suppose. If they want to follow that as a career I would certainly encourage them of course, because I've had nothing but good experiences. But, at the same time, I would make them aware of the reality of the situation, that it isn't a stable career financially, and you have to have a back up plan. It's important in that regard. You can not rely on it as a profession financially, you have to have other businesses - other things that you do. But certainly go for it because it's rewarding, when you get it right it's a very rewarding career.

DR: If you're live story were to be made into a movie, who would play you?

WD: Wow. That's a great question. With me though, it's rather tricky. Does it have to be a short person? Oh God. That's difficult that. I don't know. That's so hard. I'm trying to think of someone who resembles me, but I'm probably thinking about it too much aren't I? Am I? Should I think of someone who's a bit like me? I don't know. That's really difficult. I'm sorry. I have no idea.

DR: What are you working on at the moment.

WD: I'm currently trying to developing a talk show / chat show called Small Talk, which will be kind of a new way of doing a talk show. I want to take the guests out and I want to do something that they want to do - that they enjoy doing, whether it's cooking, DIY or golf. And do it with them and we'll have the chat at the same time. So there's all the comedy elements that you'd get from me trying to take part in whatever they're doing, for starters, and well see the real them. I think too many interviews are very staged - you're seeing the actor that you know, but you're not getting to know the person. I think I'd like to do that a bit more with the show.

This week I've just finished putting together my abilities as a host, as an interviewer - which I've been doing live for some events. And that's going out this week to producers and other people. So, hopefully get some development going because the autumn TV season's coming up and I want to sneak in on that.

I'd love to get on Doctor Who. I've got dreams for that. I want to play a villain, desperately [laughs]. Annabelle [Warwick's daughter] and I watch Doctor Who - in fact all the family do. It's great that show. There's not many shows that will appeal to my wife, my three year old [son Harrison], Annabelle and me - we all watch it. So, I've got to be in it now. I want to be a villain. So get it out there!

DR: Thank you for your time.

With thanks to Eva Bojtos at New Media Maze
Sylvia Brendel at DSA

Star Wars Episodes IV, V and VI are available to buy as special edition DVDs from 11th September 2006, and are released by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Order Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (Limited Edition, Includes Theatrical Version) for £13.99 (RRP: £22.99) by clicking here

Order Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Limited Edition, Includes Theatrical Version) for £13.99 (RRP: £22.99) by clicking here

Order Star Wars: Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (Limited Edition, Includes Theatrical Version) for £13.99 (RRP: £22.99) by clicking here

Also releasing on 11 September is LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, the action-packed sequel - filled with tongue-in-cheek humour - to one of the best-selling videogames of 2005.

This interview was conducted on 25 July 2006

Visit Warwick Davis's official website: www.warwickdavis.co.uk

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