Exclusive Interview: Hollywood Legend Warwick Davis
Jsky Meets Hollywood Legend Warwick Davis
Hollywood actor Warwick Davis first graced in our screens in 1983 in the cult classic Star Wars movie, Return of the Jedi. Since then he has gone on to star in a variety of blockbuster movies including Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, all eight Harry Potter movies and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. He is also set star in the upcoming Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, expected to be released in December this year.
It is early November, and there is a bitter chill to the air in Manchester. We are backstage at the town hall. Warwick has spared some time to talk me before engaging with the crowds at the city council Christmas lights switch on. There was a lot I wanted to know, but we didn’t have much time.
I wanted to get inside Warwick’s mind. I wanted to understand why a Hollywood actor, still enjoying the fruits of major movie success, would agree to a pantomime performance in Manchester. What was drawing him to a smaller, predominantly younger audience?
“I’m a performer and getting on stage is fantastic. Panto is a unique form of theatre that is unique to this country. For me it’s about giving youngsters their first taste of theatre. You give them the best experience of theatre at this age and they will continue to support theatre as they grow up which is essentially what myself and other actors need, be it panto or comedy or drama…”
I was intrigued to learn more of how the feeling of a theatre performance differed that that of the big screen from a leading actor’s perspective. Warwick Davis, being the seasoned performer, has had his fair share of roles of differing capacity. His insight fascinated me.
“Theatre is very different to film, of course. If you’re making a movie it doesn’t matter if you forget your lines because there’s more film in the camera, and you can do take two. On stage you have to get out there and deliver; you’ve got to get it right first time otherwise you’re going to look silly (although in panto audiences kind of like things going wrong). You know, getting out there on stage in front of 1500 people is a fantastic experience and one that just keeps you going back out there for more. That’s why I’m an actor.”
When asked if he was excited to be in my hometown of Manchester, Warwick replied with conviction and sincerity.
“I love Manchester. I mean genuinely, I love this city. There’s a lot of culture here and the people…the people are what make a place great. The people here in Manchester are among the friendliest in the country and they make great audiences. They really get involved.”
That age old question still loomed in my mind. Do veteran actors still get nervous, and is it acceptable or normal protocol for a professional to get nerves before or during a big performance.
“If I’m ever nervous I don’t feel I’m fully prepared. There’s something wrong if I’m nervous. If I’m fully prepared, I know my lines, and I’ve thought through everything, I will be excited and I will anticipate going on stage, and I won’t be nervous. I think it’s good to be excited and get a bit of adrenaline because that helps you through a performance but if you’re nervous there’s something wrong. Well certainly that’s my perspective anyway.”
Having taken on the form of a wide variety of colourful characters, Warwick Davis adds light and shade to roles which could have quite easily resulted in meek representations in the wrong hands.
“I’m lucky. I’ve been offered some really cool stuff in some huge films and I feel very fortunate. It’s lovely that people actually respond to what I’m doing and love my work. There’s nothing more gratifying than walking down the street and someone saying that they love your work in a particular project. Unless of course they’re a leprechaun fan, in which case I run the other way!”
I was personally curious to learn what had been Warwick’s favourite role to play. I was compelled to ask him.
“That’s hard. I like to look back at [Star Wars] Return Of The Jedi when I was 11 and Wicket the Ewok. The fact that this character not only was a joy to play for me as an 11 year old in front of my on-screen heroes in the shape of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, but it’s kind of the role that gave me everything. It gave me the career. Without that character and that role I wouldn’t be talking to you right now Jsky.”
When you look at Warwick Davis, you don’t see a man impaired by height. You see a hero; someone that was not deterred from their dream by any obstacle, be it mental or physical. He is a man with an appetite that remains unreplenished by the consumption of a plethora of texts, gifted with the passion to continue until his later years. I wanted to know what fuelled him to persevere having already achieved great success. When does success alone become enough?
“You know, I was thinking about this the other day. Why do I keep doing it? Why do people, when they are successful, carry on doing what they’re doing? And I think it’s because I enjoy my job. I seriously do. I’m very lucky to have the job that I have. I started acting when I was 11, so I’ve been doing this for about 33 years now. I can’t say I’ll ever retire because work comes in, I look at the script and I think, “Oh I’d love to play that character”. I think even when I’m 60, or 70, or 80 I’ll still be doing that.”