An Interview with Warwick Davis
Robert Pattinson can barely venture out during daylight hours. Zac Effron needs an armed guard whenever he leaves the house. And One Direction may as well bed down in an underground bunker – their days of wandering the streets unnoticed are long over.
But another rather unlikely candidate can also empathise with the lack of personal space when encountering the public. Warwick Davis has had to deal with it for over three decades. Ever since George Lucas cast him as Wicket, chief Ewok in Return of the Jedi, privacy has been hard to come by.
“For years, they’ve camped in my front garden, and put graffiti on my walls displaying messages of devotion,” he laughs. “And every time I move house, they always eventually catch up with me. But that’s Star Wars for you. No-one knew at the time how big it was going to be. So who could have predicted the outcome would be like this. For me of all people?
“I get accosted on the street all the time. But I’m glad of it. It proves I’ve done such a wide range of things in my career. People want to talk to me about any number of movies or shows, and it’s lovely. It means you’re doing something right. As an actor, you want people watching what you do. You want to make an impact. So no, it never bothers me. It means I’ll hopefully still be in demand for a while yet.”
“Saying it was insulting to small people was so ridiculous”
After his big break in ‘Jedi’, Davis, measuring only 3ft 6in, went on to to star in Ron Howard’s fantasy epic Willow, with Val Kilmer and Jean Marsh. It was a role specifically penned for him. He followed that up with leading roles in Leprechaun, The Chronicles of Narnia, and as Filius Flitwick in the Harry Potter series.
Presently, the 42-year-old dad of two has struck an unlikely alliance with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, appearing in last year’s Life Too Short, a series based around Davis’s experiences as a small person in the movie industry. The show was relatively well received but critics tore into what they claimed to be ‘a mean-spirited dig at those afflicted by dwarfism’. Davis however, has a rebuttal for the naysayers.
“I was really happy with the reception,” he says. “Critics are one thing, viewers are another. Saying it was insulting to small people was so ridiculous. The show’s about me and the joke’s not on me. And that’s the reaction you get as a short person in real life anyway. Anything Ricky’s involved in will lead people to judge – it’s a sport now. They did it with our show, they did it with Derek. We weren’t trying to push any buttons. It’s about a guy who’s not entirely comfortable in his own skin and it’s realistic. Most people out there aren’t very PC about short people. Believe me, I know.”
The actor’s happy to report that a special episode has already been commissioned by the BBC. But why not a whole new series?
“Everyone’s busy with our own work and it’s really all we can manage between us. So we decided a special was the way to go. A series takes six to eight months to put together. We don’t have that sort of time.”
“We see things from a very different perspective”
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter starred in the debut series, which aired just before Christmas. Who can we expect for the special? “There are some names involved, but Ricky will kill me if I breathe a word. Personally, I’d love Robert Downey Jnr to take part and I know we’ve reached out to him. But whether he’ll pick it up is another story. I shouldn’t have even said that!”
Before Davis – a brand ambassador for the ‘Make a Wish Foundation’ – gears up for the next instalment of Life’s Too Short, he’s preparing for his next Gervais adventure, this time with Karl Pilkington in the new season of Sky smash hit An Idiot Abroad. The details of Warwick’s involvement are naturally hush hush, but we can expect him to be the voice of reason against Pilkington’s xenophobic tendencies.
“I can’t wait to get started on the series. But I want to maintain, I’m definitely not the idiot – that’s Karl’s department,” he laughs. “I can’t say where we’re going, but trust me, it’s an epic journey. Travel and exploration is one thing – doing it with Mr. Karl Pilkington is quite another. We see things from a very different perspective. So yeah, it’s more me reacting to his reactions. I‘m excited to see things that I might never have had the chance to see. And Karl is hilarious, it’s going to be brilliant.”
British actor Warwick Davis is helping sick kids fulfil their dreams after signing up as an ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Visit make-a-wish.org.uk for more information.