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‘David Bowie had seven pairs of socks down his tights’: Warwick Davis on reboots, relationships and rock stars | Television

wArwick Davis is, in a sense, the most commercially successful supporting actor in cinema history. Thanks to playing an Ewok in Star Wars and a Hogwarts professor in Harry Potter, Davis is partially responsible for a worldwide box office haul of more than $14 billion. But this week, Willow is launching on Disney+. And he plays Willow, so he’s in the spotlight a lot.

“It’s a strange moment,” he says, lounging in a luxury London hotel, surrounded by the full machinations of the Disney merchandising industry. “You feel like you’re on the edge of a cliff.”

Willow is the long-awaited follow-up to the 1988 film of the same name. Written by George Lucas, directed by Ron Howard and co-starring Val Kilmer, the film was a hilarious fantasy epic in which Davis plays a reluctant farmer who must undertake a perilous mission to rescue a magical child from an evil queen. If you’re about the same age as me, and had a similarly limited collection of VHS tapes as a kid, the movie has been permanently burned onto your brain stem by sheer redundancy.

“It’s a very dear part of my career,” Davis says of a film he’s most proud of, and years later, when he came to launch a management company for short actors, he called it Willow. “It was a real stepping stone, because I went from being an actor that you never saw, that you never really recognized unless you were a real Star Wars fan, to being out in the face.”

You remind me of the kid... 17-year-old Davis in the original 1988 movie.
You remind me of the kid… 17-year-old Davis in the original 1988 movie. Photo: Photo 12/Alami

On the one hand, it was inevitable that Willow would be made into a TV show, since Disney+ likes to repurpose older intellectual property to capitalize on nostalgia. Fortunately, the new series is doing well. Even better than good. It has a perfect cast – including the likes of Erin Keleman (Top Boy, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), Ellie Bamber (The Trial of Christine Keeler), and Tony Revolori (Flash Thompson in the latest Spider-Man movie) – that oozes with energy young woman. After working through the self-importance of The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon, watching Willow is like jumping in the swimming pool on a summer’s day. “I admire them a lot,” Davis says of his fellow youths before swearing. A little annoyed with their energy levels, though. When you’re 52 and you wake up at 7:30 in the morning, it’s like, “Oh my God, you had too much coffee! Quiet!” I was the old guy on the set. I was the equivalent of Michael Gambon in Harry Potter.”

This, to some extent, is shown in the series. The Willow we meet here is older, angrier, and full of remorse. “His life didn’t turn out the way he expected,” Davis says of a plot that is a sequel to the movie (but doesn’t require you to watch the original). “He’s still nervous, he’s still anxious. He has the weight of this endeavor on his shoulders. He didn’t want to do this. He wants to go back with the villagers in the village.”

The show is the brainchild of Jonathan Kasdan, a screenwriter (and longtime Star Wars writer Lawrence’s son) who previously worked on Freaks and Geeks and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Kasdan appears to have envisioned the series as a mix of Willow and one of Davis’ other projects – not exactly the most obvious inspiration for the fantasy drama.

“John Life’s Too Short is often used as a comparison,” says Davis, referring to the Ricky Gervais sitcom. He would say, “Let’s go further, life is too short here.” He meant to make it as interesting as possible, say what you will. This is a really cool free way of working.”

Wand in the Willows… Davis as the titular wizard in the Disney+ series.
Wand in the Willows… Davis as the titular wizard in the Disney+ series. Photography: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Was that a strange experience? “It was weird at first, because in my mind Willow is a certain person who does certain things a certain way. So it was a little uncomfortable to break out of those boundaries. But once I did it a few times, it became really liberating.”

Although Joanne Whalley reprises her role as the evil child hunter Sorsha in the new show, Val Kilmer is the character who doesn’t appear. Due to recent ill health, he is unable to reprise his role as a mercenary swordsman who helps Willow on his quest – which seems to weigh heavily on Davies. “Not a day went by while we were filming that I didn’t think about him,” he says wistfully. “What a great guy. When you’re 17 in a huge movie like that, playing the lead, there’s a lot of pressure, both physically and mentally, to do well. Val was always there with a joke. Kind of picking my spirits up, saying, ‘Come on You can do this,” you know, caress me physically. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for that.”

There is, of course, another important character missing from this iteration of Willow: its creator, George Lucas. I wonder aloud if this puts Davis in a tough spot. On the one hand, Lucas is basically responsible for his entire career. After all, his big break was playing the Ewok Wicket in Return of the Jedi, and Willow seems to have been written explicitly as a Warwick Davis vehicle. The pair were so tight that Davis at one point even boasted that he used to get industrial light and magic techs to help him with his school projects, which seems a bit like cheating.

On the other hand, ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm for All the Money in the World in 2012, Lucas has found himself pulled away from creative decisions regarding his old work; Something he’ll catch on sporadically in public. Does Davis know what Lucas thinks of the new Willow?

For a moment, Davis looked curt. “We’re removed from George, you know, he’s not part of this project,” he began. “George is very opinionated about anything that’s been done since the deal, as we’ve seen with Star Wars. So they rarely ask his opinion, because they know…” He backs off, deciding it might be more diplomatic to attack the question from another point of view instead .

Mission awaits... Davis and Graham Hughes in a scene from Willow.
Mission awaits… Davis and Graham Hughes in a scene from Willow. Photo: Lucasfilm/Disney+

“If it’s something of your making, and it’s very dear to you, you’ll obviously have an opinion about someone else dealing with it,” he says. “So if this series will be what he envisions? I don’t know. He’s often talked about it being a TV thing, similar to how they did Young Indiana Jones years ago. He could see it that way. I’d be interested to know. We’re still in touch, so I’ll ask. from him “.

Davis has been famous for almost his entire life. He began acting at the age of 11, when his grandmother overheard a radio interview looking for shortsighted people in Return of the Jedi, and has worked steadily since then, graduating from acting to hosting ITV gameshow daily Tenable, a charity Little People UK partner, and working on He raised awareness of sepsis after his wife Samantha suffered a near shock with death in 2019. It’s time to be famous and keep the fans watching. Especially in sci-fi and fantasy — the genres in which he predominantly works — there’s a sense that viewers are feeling more ownership over franchises than ever before, with some waiting to review anything they hate. Having played roles in all of the Disney-era Star Wars movies, has he noticed a change in attitude?

“Not all actors feel this way, but I feel like the fans are basically the reason you’re successful,” he says. “You kind of owe them to them, but you don’t owe them your whole life. That’s weird. I mean, once Willow came out, I was suddenly recognized as opposed to being behind these masks. But everything you do there’s a new level. When I did Life’s Too Short, I got so much recognized, plus they started to think they knew me, even though I was playing a fictional part. But then you’re working on ITV and doing Tenable, and people feel like they really know you because you’re in their living rooms every day.”

These are good times to be Davis. Disney’s repurposing of old Lucasfilm properties means he’s now in constant business. Willow’s second season hasn’t been officially announced, but plans seem to be in the works. “I saw John in the driveway earlier, and he said, ‘Hey, I had a great idea we could do for a second season! “If Disney opens the door, we’ll walk through it.”

Despite all this, there is one old project of his that hasn’t yet been given a Disney+ overhaul. “Is a Labyrinth TV series released anywhere?” He asks when we begin to conclude. “They did Dark Crystal, but I haven’t heard any talk of Labyrinth.”

It’s a surprise that there’s no new Labyrinth project, I say, given that I’ve been out with women whose sexual awakenings stem entirely from the first time they saw David Bowie in this movie. “Those socks were a little tight, weren’t they?” He says. “He was very, very unassuming on the site, by the way. I want to go by Dave, despite this huge wig and seven pairs of socks in my tights.”

Willow is on Disney+ From Wednesday 30 November.

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