Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our eighty-second guest is a veteran of the saga – Warwick Davis.
Lightsabre – Welcome to Lightsabre. You’ve been involved with Star Wars since ’82. How exciting has that been, how thrilling has that ride been for you?
WD – Well I still find it amazing that we’re now thirty years from the original Star Wars movie and twenty five years from Jedi and it’s still as popular as ever. There’s still this kind of force behind it, I suppose. And now I’m meeting a whole new generation of fans who weren’t even born, or even thought about when the films first came out originally, so that’s a really nice thing, and you can see the parents kind of excited to be able to hand something on that they grew up with to their children. That’s why I think events like this are so popular, because Dads have an excuse to come and enjoy Star Wars again because they can bring the kids round.
WD – Oh absolutely, it was very much a family event, and that’s what we wanted to create, something that families could come and enjoy. It was really kind of my objective was to create shows there that appealed to families, because you’ve got Mom and sister perhaps that come with husband and son, who are really like “Oh I don’t want to be here, it’s Star Wars.”. So my shows were more about entertainment with a Star Wars twist. Hopefully I pulled that off, but I wanted to bring everybody into it and everybody could have a good time. It wasn’t too niche, it wasn’t too anorak. It’s supposed to be for everyone.
Lightsabre – You were eleven when you signed up for Jedi. How aware were you of Star Wars then?
WD – I was a fan of Star Wars – A New Hope and Empire. Very much so, as any other eleven year old is, he’s into the films and I’ve got memory of ’77, lining up outside Sutton cinema in Surrey and everybody started to go in and excitement builds, and then they cut the line off, so I didn’t get in. Stood outside and waited two hours while they watched it and then went into the next showing. It was very much something you had to do, even at seven, you had to be there. Really fun and great memories.
Lightsabre – You worked with Roy Kinnear on Return of the Ewok. How did that come about?
WD – It was really the brainchild of the first assistant director David Tomblin, who kind of looked at me and was inspired to kind of come up with a story. He was a filmmaker himself and we just shot the film during lunch hours and on Sundays through the course of the filming. Originally it was designed to be kind of a promotional short film to go along with Star Wars, or whatever films they were kind of…you know they used to do shorts, they don’t do it now. That was what it was originally designed for, and it was never completed and it’s now shown at events I appear at and I use it to raise money, so charities benefit from it. It’s never going to be made available to buy, it’s just one of those things, the logistics of clearances. Because it features all of the main cast, all sorts of people gave their time for it.
Lightsabre – Are you proud of it?
WD – Oh yeah, it’s lovely, a lovely film always is a thrill for fans to see it, they’re kind of like “Wow, that’s something special.”
Lightsabre – Is it true you played Artoo in certain scenes in Jedi?
WD – No I didn’t, no.
Lightsabre – You played Yoda in one of the films though?
WD – That’s Episode One, but I’ve never been in the Artoo outfit, no. Leave that to the professional. (We both look over at Kenny Baker who is two tables away).
WD – It’s Jedi still, I still see that because that’s my introduction to the world of acting and the world of films. And my introduction to George Lucas, who then was inspired to write Willow because of him knowing me. That is the story, he told that to my Mom while we were doing the Ewok movies, he said ‘I’ve got this idea for a film for Warwick but he’s too young at the moment.’ And that was Willow, he came out with that five years previous.
Lightsabre – That must have been thrilling.
WD – I see really Star Wars as the break, Willow was another kind of boost along the way, the first role that I’d had where I wasn’t hidden behind the creature mask. And still again, another tribute to George Lucas, again he’s created a film in Willow that has stood the test of time. We’re twenty years from that film and people today, it’s just as popular as Star Wars here with the people who have been speaking to me.
Lightsabre – You did the Leprechaun movies as well, how did that come about?
WD – I first got the script in ’91 for the first Leprechaun film and the director and the writer he didn’t want to send me the script because he’d seen Willow and thought ‘He’s too nice a guy’, he’s not going to be up for this. But as soon as I read it, it was like ‘great, I need to do this’, because when you’ve done a movie like Willow that’s made a big impact and people go ‘He’s the guy from Willow’. I don’t want to get niched into that. So Leprechaun I made a complete departure, did the film, had a great time playing a villain and being obscene and absurd. It was great fun and it did show I’ve got diversity and it worked. And it was my first taste of having a prosthetic makeup, and I’ve gone on to become quite the expert in wearing prosthetic make-ups. But now there’ve been six Leprechaun movies and the fans are always crying out for another.
Lightsabre – You going to do more?
WD – If the script was great, and there’s a few scripts about, and they wanted me to do it I’d certainly be up for it, yeah.
Lightsabre – Do you prefer being in the make-up or the costume or do you prefer being out of it?
WD – Either way, I don’t mind because it’s acting and that’s what I love doing. If I didn’t love acting I wouldn’t be doing this, otherwise it’s very challenging lifestyle and challenging career to have. You have to have a passion for it. You know, there’s some people who go into this business thinking ‘Oh, I’ll be an actor, they make a nice bit of money’. A, that isn’t really the case and secondly, you couldn’t really get by on that, because if you’ve been thinking about doing this for the money you’re gonna soon give up and go somewhere else. You have to have a passion and a drive, so that’s what really keeps me going through this and if I have to wear a three hour makeup then that’s great as well, it allows me to completely immerse myself in that character. You’re changing your look, changing your voice, it’s a complete transformation. If I can do a film where I’m not recognised and people go ‘I didn’t know that was you’ then I’m really happy.
Lightsabre – You’ve gone from being in the Star Wars movies to being in the Harry Potter films as Professor Flitwick. That must be fantastic.
WD – Oh yeah. When we did the first one the books were really popular and successful and when I heard they were making the movie I thought ‘Oh I’d love to be in that’. I hadn’t read the book at that point, surely there’s something for me in there. Well we got the call through, they wanted me to go down and meet Chris Columbus about playing Flitwick. So I went in and I did some improve with him and had a good, real fun meeting, lot of laughter. I remember the casting director was there and the producers and just a lot of fun it was.
And then I had an anxious few weeks wait to hear, and when they called up they said ‘Yeah, we’d love Warwick to play the character, we’d also love him to play the Goblin Bank teller at Gringotts Bank, so you know I was so thrilled about one but I actually landed two parts in the same movie. And then since that day I’ve played Flitwick in each movie and in Order of the Phoenix I played two characters, another different goblin. So it’s all good, I’ll be starting the sixth one in February.
Lightsabre – I haven’t read the books but are you in all of them?
Lightsabre – Yeah, Flitwick’s in all of them, whether he makes it to the script each time, I’m up to number six so fingers crossed.
Lightsabre – Final question, Extras. Classic. How did that come about, because that was fantastic?
WD – I was at home, just minding my own business and the phone rang. I remember it vividly, I was in the kitchen. I said hi, and he said ‘This is Ricky Gervais here’. I’m a huge fan of The Office, love it, really love the series, and obviously Extras since and was a huge fan of what Ricky was doing. And I went ‘Oh yeah?’. He said ‘No, it’s Ricky.’ I said ‘Who is it?’ I thought it was a wind up, my mate or something. And he started laughing at that, he thought it was hilarious. I thought it’s a very weird laugh this guys got, it really does sound like Ricky Gervais laughing. I said ‘It really is you isn’t it?’ and he said ‘Yeah!’ And he said ‘I want to pitch an idea to you. I’m doing something called Extras.’ This was before series one, and he described the basic plot of the episode and he said ‘Well I end up kicking you in the face, are you alright with that?’ I said ‘Well I love The Office and it would be an honour to be kicked in the face by you.’ So then through other circumstances of me being busy and so on series one didn’t work out, and then when it came to series two obviously then the episode was in we did it, and it was great.
I can’t believe the response, I didn’t know so many people watched Extras, young and old, people just loved it. I don’t know whether they enjoy me kind of being made fun of by Stephen Merchant, my reaction to that or they enjoy seeing me be assaulted. What do they enjoy?
Lightsabre – It’s a bit of everything I think.
WD – Oh good, I don’t know how to take that! But people loved that, they just loved it.
Lightsabre – You just played an evil version of yourself.
WD – Well I wasn’t evil, I was just kind of more…
Lightsabre – A bit full of yourself, a bit arrogant.
WD – Exactly, yeah that’s what you do, you have to go a bit bigger than you normally are.
Lightsabre – Excellent, thanks very much for that.
WD – Alright, nice to have met you.
Lightsabre – Cheers, and you.
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 21st October 2007.