Putting the Furry Suit On… – Warwick Davis (The VH Interview)

British character actor Warwick Davis has had a long and fascinating career bringing weird and wonderful roles to life. Ahead of the release of the much-anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we were very lucky to sit down with Warwick to discuss the new film, along with sweaty Ewoks, Willow sequels, and the possibly forthcoming Leprechaun: On the Road…

How has it been working with so many different directors on the Star Wars films over the years?

All of the directors on the Star Wars films, if you go back to Richard Marquand, and of course George himself on Episode I, they’ve all brought their own sensibilities to it. You have to, and that’s why each of these individuals – not George, obviously – that’s why they’re employed to do these films. They bring something to the table themselves; a particular film-making style, a writing skill… whatever it might be. I think that gives each of these films a unique slant and an individuality, but at the same time they each feel part of the same galaxy that we all know and love. It’s great. Richard Marquand… I owe him a lot. Him and David Tomlin… Both of those guys saw eleven-year-old me as a background artist just filling in some bodies in the background, and they brought me to the fore and featured me, which was really lovely! That was stroke of luck, but I was able to do things and interpret that character in a way that was quite endearing and that they enjoyed. I was a big fan of Gareth Edwards. I loved his work on Monsters. I was a big fan of that film. I’d actually been to a Q&A that he’d done, and sat in the audience and asked questions. Little did I know that he’d be directing a Star Wars movie – he didn’t know at that point – and that also I would be in it! With Gareth though, you never quite know when he’s rolling. He’s one of these guys who just shoots stuff, and it’s quite tricky when you’re in a creature head; you’re never quite sure of what’s gonna be in the movie and what isn’t, so it keeps you on your toes!

What can we look forward to in The Last Jedi, and your character in that?

Argh! I can’t talk about anything to do with that! (laughs) But, you know what, I’m just so thrilled that they asked me to be in these films once again because, for me as a Star Wars fan, it’s hugely exciting just to walk onto the set and discover things. I feel really privileged just to walk in there and see the things that they’re creating. Some of them familiar, some of them unfamiliar. It’s an absolute delight! What I’m enjoying about the films we’re making now is the sense that so much of it is created now. We’re using all the tools in the toolbox; not only are we gonna use CGI, we’re gonna use models, we’re gonna use animatronics, puppeteers… We’re gonna build droids, we’re gonna use all of these things in combination to form a particular sequence. It’s a bit like a magician; you use a lot of things to do one trick so that the whole thing is complete and convincing. I think it’s really lovely to see some of these older skills being utilised again, whereas on Episode I, I’d never made a film like that before, where NOTHING existed. I did a shot for that film where there was just a blue screen and me, and I was having to imagine, not only this creature that I was dealing with, but also the environment that I was in. None of it existed. Whereas with films like Rogue One, that was a very immersive experience. All of it was there. There was stuff happening everywhere because you never knew what Gareth was shooting! The crew were diving about everywhere!

So, any chance of Wicket making an appearance?

That’s never come up as a topic of conversation. Years ago, roundabout the time of Episode II in Australia, they were talking about doing a huge photo with many of the characters all in one photo, and they were talking about getting Wicket in the photo. But I don’t think I would actually fit in the costume anymore! I was two foot eleven when I played Wicket, and I’m three foot six now, so there’s a big difference! It would’ve been lovely to have been involved in that, but after you’ve sweated in the suit for eight weeks, you don’t really want to get back in it again. Especially after thirty odd years!

Having played so many bizarre characters and creatures, how do you go about finding inspiration for a role?

Well, with Wicket, it was me putting the furry suit on. (laughs) And then acting like a curious eleven-year-old does on a film set! That’s exactly what happened! It was me as an eleven-year-old, crossed with my pet dog! Something like the Leprechaun, though… you sort of make it up as you go along really. You do a particularly dodgy Irish accent, and then act like a complete nutter. And it sort of works! It’s always a pleasure to bring characters and creatures to the screen, especially, for example, in Harry Potter; some of these characters that people know and love from the literature. I feel a great responsibility that they appear on-screen in the way that I feel the readers would have imagined them. I feel that’s the trick when you adapt something to the screen. So, they’re a little more tricky because you feel you want to please everyone. But there are other characters, in Star Wars and things, where you’re totally in control of them. They’re written in the script, and they’re designed by wonderful artists, and you get to wear these fabulous costumes. But then it becomes all about how you want to interpret what you’ve read and what you see in the shape of the character and how it looks to bring it to life, and then, again, hope the audience likes it! As an actor, you put yourself out there and hope that what you’re doing is what people are going to enjoy! Quite fortunately, most of the time, I’ve been quite lucky in my career so far! There’s a lot of luck involved!

Now that Disney have now bought Lucasfilm, do you think there could be a market for a sequel to Willow?

You know, there’s so much energy behind this! Everybody’s asking about it! I get tweets about it, Val Kilmer’s always asking me about it… (laughs) Just last week he asked again! It is under the Disney umbrella now; they’ve even branded the original film “Disney’s” Willow! Whenever it’s on TV it’s “Disney’s” Willow! And it’s quite sweet, whenever I meet young children now, they say “Oh! I love Disney’s Willow!” Joking aside, I think it’s nice to explore characters, especially the ones in Willow, now that they’ve aged a bit. Obviously, I still look as good as I did back then… but is Willow older and wiser? Has he learned to be a sorcerer? Is he now the High Aldwin of the village? What’s going on with that? There’s so many questions! It would be interesting to see where that could go, and I’d certainly love to follow it up, and there’s a lot of eighties movies having sequels made. A lot of people look to the eighties as being a great decade, especially for science fiction and fantasy films.

And what of the Leprechaun? You’ve been to the hood, you’ve been to space, you’ve been back to the hood… Where’s next??

There’s nowhere else to go is there?? It was ridiculous really! They ran out of places; “Oh, we’ll send him to space!” We went to the hood twice, so obviously ran out of places to go! I don’t know… I’d like to do a road movie. I think the leprechaun on a road movie would be kind of fun, wouldn’t it? Meeting lots of people… because I really enjoy his interaction with just regular people. It’s funny, isn’t it? When he just encounters people. He always puts himself intellectually above them, but just enjoys toying with them. I think that’d be fun to see some more of that. But who knows? WHO KNOWS??

Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits cinemas on 14 December. Stay tuned for more news!