Ahead of his appearance in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, TV Editor Matt Dawson attended a Q&A session with Warwick Davis at the 2017 MCM Birmingham Comic Con
Famous for a diverse acting career, Warwick Davis recently took centre stage at the MCM Birmingham Comic Con. Heading up a solo panel, he opened up the floor to Q&A from his fans looking back at his involvement from the Star Wars to the Harry Potter franchises, and everything in between. His mannerisms were not at all as if he was on stage to a large crowd, instead he jokingly interacted with the audience, asking them to give Star Wars impressions and recounting his past experiences as if he were in his living room.
Davis looks back affectionately on the dawn of his career playing Wicket, the leader of the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. ‘When I was 11 years old, that was particularly fun. It was a little bit hot, I was covered in fur and a foam padded suit underneath to give the rounded shape of the Ewok, and when you get the head on you can’t see anything either because the eyes would mist up straight away […] But I had a lot more energy than the older Ewoks, who would normally have had enough by 11 in the morning, and they used to call me the “Ever Ready Ewok”, because I just kept going and going and going.’
Davis has since been a familiar face in the Star Wars universe, appearing once again in The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens, and in the upcoming The Last Jedi and Solo. He elaborated on how he persistently reminded the creator George Lucas of his desire to be a part of the films: ‘the time between Return of the Jedi and Episode I was quite a while, but in the early 90s, George Lucas started to hint at the idea of doing more Star Wars. As soon as I heard this, I used to send him faxes to remind him that I was still around and looking for work. I think he cast me just to save on fax paper!’ Davis further went on to describe his experiences on the set of The Phantom Menace, ‘That was shot at Leavesden Studios, the same place where they shot Harry Potter […] On the day, there were bright lights to simulate the twin suns of Tatooine, and they would blow wind at us every so often as the pods went by. And some years later, doing Harry Potter, in the very same sound stage, I was sitting watching Quidditch!’
Warwick Davis is also known for bringing multiple roles to life from the enchanting words of J.K. Rowling. He stated that ‘it was down to the brilliant team who did the makeup for the films. Nick Dudman and his team were able to transform me into these weird and wonderful characters.’ Over the course of the series, he consistently played Professor Filius Flitwick in each film, but also several goblin characters as well. ‘In the case of The Deathly Hallows and The Philosopher’s Stone I was able to play two characters in the same film, and I look back very fondly on those memories.’
On the other side of the coin to the jovial Flitwick (the voice of whom he gave a nostalgic rendition to the crowd), Davis reflected on his time as the treacherous Gringotts Goblin Griphook. ‘It’s lovely as an actor to play a villain. I think playing Griphook was great as you never quite knew where you were with that character. He was very cool, very calm and just nasty.’ But as his character was to meet a grisly end, Davis waxed lyrical about a certain moment in his death scene, one that he shared with Ralph Fiennes, who played Voldemort. ‘He was walking up and down, wafting his cape and doing his thing, and there was loads of goblin blood on the floor. Gallons of it everywhere, it looked quite gruesome. And Ralph, as Voldemort, has no shoes on, and as he was walking between the dead goblins, I did laugh a bit as he actually slipped a bit on the blood like a banana skin. He was so composed before that, but all of a sudden it went out of the window. So they quickly mopped a lot of the blood up.’
After spending 10 years working with the same cast (and watching some of them grow up), it’s clear that Davis has dear memories of the camaraderie between the cast and crew. ‘I think it is quite gruelling what you go through. So you end up bonding, and you find strength in that bond that you have […] In The Deathly Hallows, I remember Daniel Radcliffe, who wasn’t in part of the scene [they were currently shooting], and he would be holding an umbrella for Maggie Smith.’
The actor went on to share some further stories about his esteemed co-actors. ‘I loved to hear Michael Gambon tell his tales of the theatre. Often we’d be doing a night shoot, and if you can imagine the situation, I’d be sitting there with all these actors of a high calibre under a gazebo huddled around an electric radiator, and Michael Gambon is telling us all these stories of his past acting experiences. I can’t name names, but it was really fun and helped pass the time at 3 o’clock in the morning.’ Of course, he could not get away with mentioning Alan Rickman, who sadly passed away in January of 2016. ‘He wore [Snape’s costume] very well, but he used to ruin it a little bit for us on set because sometimes I would look across to him and he be sitting there looking like Snape, but very subtly he would have these white pair of earphones in, and I would wonder what is he listening to? I would like to imagine dramatic classical music. Or the Cheeky Girls, I’m not sure.’