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The Untold Truth Of Warwick Davis

If you're familiar with the 2011 comedy miniseries Life's Too Short, you may have a strange understanding of the life of actor Warwick Davis. Davis stars as a parody of himself, an actor on the edge of ruin. The world doesn't remember him, other actors can't stand him, and he runs the talent agency Dwarves for Hire, promising work for other little people but hogging the best roles for himself. At the same time, he's going through a well-earned divorce, and he's under the gun for unpaid taxes. 

But when watching Life's Too Short, you need to remember it's a comedy and a not documentary because the stories on the show couldn't be further from the truth. Davis is an accomplished actor who's been working regularly since he was a boy. Doors opened for Davis when he was cast in one of the world's most popular fictional franchises, and he hasn't hesitated to make the best of those opportunities. He's starred in dozens of movies and TV series since the '80s, built a family, and yes — like in Life's Too Short – he runs a talent agency specializing in little people actors, but we're pretty sure he treats his clients far better than he does in the show. 

To learn more about an actor who's been a touchstone in some of the most important fantasy and science fiction productions of the past few decades, keep reading for the untold truth of Warwick Davis.

Becoming a part of Star Wars was a dream come true for Warwick Davis

The 11-year-old Warwick Davis didn't have any specific dreams about appearing on the big screen, but like a lot of kids his age in 1981, he was a big Star Wars fan. So, he was eager when his grandmother — while listening to the radio — overheard a story about the makers of Star Wars looking for short actors to play the forest-dwelling Ewoks. Davis told The Independent in 2011 that it still wasn't the idea of acting that excited him the most. "It wasn't so much being in the film," Davis said, "as being able to say 'hello' to Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Princess Leia and spend time with them."

Initially, Davis wasn't going to have the prominent role he enjoyed in 1983's Return of the Jedi. Davis was originally cast as one of many Ewok extras, and it was going to be the late Kenny Baker — the same actor who portrayed the iconic role of droid R2-D2 — playing Wicket the Ewok. But when Baker fell ill, Davis was tapped to step in and take over for the much more visible role. 

The adventures of Wicket the Ewok

Being invited to work on the set of a Star Wars film would doubtless be a singular experience for any 11-year-old, and Davis found himself not only on the receiving end of some wonderful, heartfelt perks from the older actors but in the starring role of what wound up being a rare promotional short.

While Return of the Jedi was being shot, the late David Tomblin — who worked as both first assistant director and second unit director on Jedi — was working on Return of the Ewok, with Davis in the lead role. Return of the Ewok was a short mockumentary, starring the young Davis as a fictionalized version of himself. Originally meant to promote JediReturn of the Ewok was ultimately scrapped during post-production. The finished product is hard to find, but apparently in the story, Davis goes to locations both in the real world and the Star Wars universe, is chased by Darth Vader and Boba Fett, and at one point, he wants to try out for The Muppet Show.

Along with starring in his own short, Davis was afforded a rare kindness by Mark Hamill while filming Return of the Jedi. Answering a fan question on Twitter in 2019, Hamill wrote that when he met Davis, he was a "boy whizzing around Elstree Studios on roller skates," and that Hamill went to George Lucas for help with getting Davis quite a few action figures, including the famous Darth Vader carrying case. 

He's never left the Star Wars world

While his role of Wicket in Return of the Jedi may be the Star Wars role he's most known for, Warwick Davis has played perhaps more roles in the Star Wars films than any single actor, not to mention other media like television and video games. 

For starters, Return of the Jedi was far from Davis' last time as Wicket. He reprised the role for two TV movies — 1984's The Ewok Adventure and the following year's Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. Credited as "Wicket W. Warrick," he played the Ewok again in 2019's The Rise of Skywalker. George Lucas didn't forget Davis when he made the prequels, either. It's Davis under the mask of Wald, Anakin Skywalker's (Jake Lloyd) Rodian friend in The Phantom Menace, and according to a 2014 Reddit AMA (via Radio Times), he appears as Yoda in one scene. He also plays the thief Weazel, who we see in the stands during the pod race, and Weazel appears again as one of the Cloud-Riders in 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story

Disney's purchase of the franchise didn't slow down Davis' Star Wars work — quite the contrary. Davis plays one of Maz Kanata's patrons in The Force Awakens, one of the Canto Bight gamblers in The Last Jedi, and an alien freedom fighter on Jedha in Rogue One. He also lent his voice to one of his few evil Star Wars characters — the assassin Rukh in the animated series Star Wars Rebels.

A Willow sequel has been on Warwick Davis' mind for a while

Warwick Davis left an impression on the makers of Return of the Jedi, and he was tapped for the leading role in Lucasfilm's foray into swords and sorcery — 1988's Willow. Davis plays the titular hero, a fledgling sorcerer tasked with protecting the infant Elora Danan, a child prophesied to bring about the downfall of the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). Willow wasn't particularly well-received upon its release, but over the years, it's developed a cult following, helping to lead to the October 2020 announcement that a sequel series was heading to Disney+, with Davis reprising the role of Willow Ufgood. 

While the announcement may have been a surprise to a lot of new and old fans of Willow, it's something Davis has been talking about for quite a while. As early as the Star Wars Celebration events in 2005, Davis and George Lucas talked to fans about the possibility of a Willow television series. Plus, Davis has peppered interviews with mentions of reprising the role over the years. In 2018, Davis told Cinema Blend that he'd spoken at length with screenwriter Jon Kasdan about a Willow sequel during the filming of Solo: A Star Wars Story, and by early 2020, the anticipation among fans had reached a high enough pitch that Davis felt it necessary to warn fans via ComingSoon.net that their excitement "has actually got a little bit ahead of things at this stage." 

The mystery of Willow's third acorn

If you're one of the fans who've watched and rewatched Willow over the years, then there might be at least one mystery you want solved. Just before Willow begins his journey, the High Aldwin (Billy Barty) gives Willow three magical acorns, each with the power to turn their targets into stone. Willow drops one of the acorns while he and Elora Danan are being chased by trolls, and he uses one — which he treats like the final acorn — against Queen Bavmorda in the film's final battle, though she's able to fight off the enchantment. So what happened to acorn #3? Why didn't Willow hit Bavmorda with it while she was struggling to fight off the enchantment? 

In 2013, Warwick Davis gave io9 the answer. Willow loses the second acorn at a crucial moment, but the scene was cut from the film. After Willow finally finds the powerful sorceress Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes) on an island, he and his allies head back to the mainland, and Bavmorda summons a powerful storm to try to drown them. The heroes survive, but Willow drops an acorn — turning the boat to stone and sinking it. 

"In the actual cut of the film, you see me rowing a boat away from the island, the next thing you see I'm sitting on the shore lying in a hut," Davis explained. He went on to point out that if you pay attention, Willow is wet from his near-drowning from the cut scene.

Warwick Davis wanted to play Professor Flitwick before there was a Professor Flitwick

Star Wars isn't the only popular franchise in which Warwick Davis has played multiple roles. He's also left his mark on the film adaptations of the Harry Potter novels. He's played a nameless goblin teller in the Gringotts bank, as well as the most well-known of Gringotts' employees — Griphook. But he isn't just counting coins. Davis also plays Hogwart's Charms Master and head of House Ravenclaw, Professor Filius Flitwick.

While speaking to ET Canada about 2009's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Davis said Flitwick was his favorite of the different Potter characters he's played. While Flitwick originates in the novels, according to Davis, his own portrayal of the wizard came from a more personal source. As the actor explained, "He was a character that I'd sort of been storing away since I was about 13. I have video of myself in my bedroom with lots of test tubes and doing experiments and playing this crazy professor." That anonymous character, Davis explained, "was the forerunner to Professor Flitwick."

It's a rare opportunity to summon an imaginary person we conceived during childhood and share them with the world. It's no wonder playing the half-goblin wizard was a source of joy for Davis. 

Leprechaun no more ... for now

While most of Warwick Davis' characters are heroes, one of his most prolific roles is of a particularly gory villain. We're speaking, of course, of the Leprechaun. Davis played the horrific killer in 1993's Leprechaun, in which the titular creature hunts down a family he's convinced has stolen his pot of gold, including a young Jennifer Aniston. Davis returned in five more films to play the monster, including Leprechaun 4: In Space, set in the distant future when clearly leprechauns are still an issue for everybody.

But when it was time to revive the franchise with 2018's Leprechaun Returns, Davis passed on the opportunity to reprise the role. Now, the Leprechaun series isn't known for its Oscar nominations, and it's likely a healthy chunk of its fan base files these horror flicks under the "guilty pleasure" category, so you might think Davis wanted to move on to more "quality" cinema. According to the actor, however, he had a completely different reason for declining. 

"I think it's different when you have kids, you look at horror in a different way," Davis told Cinema Blend in 2018. "Since I finished the Leprechaun films, I had kids, and I see the world through their eyes, and to be in a horror movie right now is probably not quite right." But he hasn't written off the genre for good. He went on to say, "I will wait until my son turns 18, and then I'll do some horror again."

What Warwick Davis calls his greatest role may surprise you

Warwick Davis has starred in a lot of films serving as huge landmarks for fans of science fiction and fantasy. He was an Ewok, he taught at Hogwart's, and he was even the physical half of Marvin the Robot in 2005's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. So it may surprise you to learn that what Davis calls his "greatest role" wasn't in one of the major motion pictures in which he's appeared but in a single 2013 episode of Doctor Who.

In "Nightmare in Silver," the seventh series' penultimate episode, Davis appears as the emperor of the universe. While his character's full name is Emperor Ludens Nimrod Kendrick Cord Longstaff XLI, he goes by the name Porridge. The Doctor (Matt Smith) and his friends meet Porridge in the theme park Hedgwick's World of Wonders, where Porridge had gone to escape the pressures of his duties as emperor.

Explaining why it was his greatest role to The Independent, Davis said, "I felt there was so much going on with that role, in terms of who he really was. ... Like me, he'd had a lot of success, but was trying to be a real person even though the pressure of his job was huge. That resonated with me and it touched a lot of people."

Warwick Davis is passionate about helping other little people get roles

Not content with helping only themselves, in 1995, Warwick Davis and Peter Burroughs teamed up to start the talent agency Willow Management, specializing in representing short actors in the UK. They also represent actors over seven feet tall who (via The Independent) otherwise "have nowhere else to go."

In quite a few interviews, Davis has spoken about how he'd like to see things change for people of different heights in the entertainment industry. In 2014, Davis founded the Reduced Height Theatre Company. With actors "roughly 4 feet tall," as well as props and set cut to their proportions, the goal of the Company — according to The Guardian — "is for the audience to forget the height of the cast within the first five minutes."

While he wants to see more characters of shorter and taller stature get roles that have nothing to do with their heights, Davis also isn't particularly happy when the roles of shorter characters go to average height people. Speaking to The Independent about it, he gave the example of 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman, saying, "I was distracted by taller actors [such as Ray Winstone] playing the roles of the seven dwarfs. The other Snow White film released that year, Mirror Mirror, used little people, and that's how it should be." 

Acting runs in the Davis family

Warwick Davis has been known to bring his son, Harrison, and daughter, Annabelle, along with him for small, non-speaking roles in movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and The Rise of Skywalker. The Davis children have appeared in those films as goblins and Ewoks. And in the case of his daughter, the acting bug seems to have taken hold. Since her late teens, Annabelle Davis has been working as a professional actor. 

Annabelle is best known for her work on CBBC's The Dumping Ground. On this children's drama, Annabelle plays Sasha Bellman. With their mother almost never home and a father who's disappeared, Sasha is forced to steal food to feed herself and her brother, Dexter (Alexander Aze). After numerous arrests, Saha is on her way to a stricter, more secure facility before landing at the show's setting — the Ashdene Ridge care home.

Ricky Gervais says Warwick Davis is his favorite person to direct

In Life's Too Short, the miniseries that gives us a fictionalized, ridiculous version of Warwick Davis' life, the actor is constantly badgering Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais for work or other favors. In the third episode, he asks for a quote from them for his website. What they send him is, "We've worked with some of the greatest actors on the planet ... and Warwick Davis." Clearly too thick-headed to understand the implied insult, the fictionalized Davis is thrilled with the quote.

However, the real-life Gervais has a much better time collaborating with Davis than his fictional counterpart on Life's Too Short. In an interview about the series, Gervais praised Davis, comparing his physical comedy to that of the legendary Charlie Chaplin. "I've never had so much fun directing anyone," Gervais said. "A-listers, Hollywood, it doesn't matter."

Gervais and Davis first worked together on Extras, Gervais' series about movie extra Andy Millman. Davis appears in an episode in which he plays himself alongside his Harry Potter co-star Daniel Radcliffe, and among other things, he gets kicked in the face by Millman. Gervais said his pitch to Davis about the role began with, "How would you like to be kicked in the face?" Davis reportedly responded, "It would be an honor to be kicked in the face by you."