Life's Too Short: Me, Johnny Depp and Ricky Gervais

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Of all my career achievements, I am most proud of Life's Too Short.

I say this because I have a much closer connection with the series than any project I
have worked on before.

It was an idea that came from a conversation with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant whom I'd first worked with on Extras.

Helena Bonham Carter, Ricky Gervais, Warwick Davis, Stephen Merchant and Johnny Depp

We talked about approaches I was getting from documentary producers wanting to follow me and my family.

This type of thing was not for me, but maybe it would be fun to manipulate my world as an actor and person, presenting a very different version of myself and my life.

And so, Life's Too Short was conceived - a faux documentary following a man obsessed with fame, a man whose career is on the slide, a man whose wife is divorcing him, a man who just happens to be short.

Filming the series was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but it was also the most fun.

For me, it was a chance to pay tribute to my comedy heroes and influences: Laurel and Hardy, Frank Spencer and Captain Mainwaring, who had all been childhood favourites.

Alan Partridge and David Brent set the standard in comedy characters.

Life's Too Short was my opportunity to enter their arena, to see if I had what it takes to stand shoulder to shoulder (in reality, shoulder to knee) with these legends of laughter.

But did I have what it takes? Ricky and Stephen seemed to think so, trusting me
with their seven brilliantly written scripts.

However, I knew that a bad performance could not be disguised by great dialogue or well realised comic situations.

The trailer for Life's Too Short

I had to pull this off, there was too much at stake - Ricky and Stephen's reputation, the BBC's money and I knew expectations were very high.

As the start of shooting approached, I buried myself in the scripts. Every waking moment was spent learning.

I downloaded them all so wherever I was, I'd be able to study. In the car (not driving), walking, on the train, on the toilet - I was a man obsessed.

The first day of shooting was amazing. I was starring in my own sitcom for the
BBC, written by, directed by and co-starring Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Wow! This really is as good as it gets.

To shoot the seven half-hour episodes took eight weeks, and there was not a scene that I didn't appear in.

Each day presented new challenges, wonderful cameos from A-list stars and some lesser known, but equally talented performers. They were all a joy.

Johnny Depp came in on the last day of filming.

There was an air of anticipation before his arrival. Even Ricky and Stephen looked tense and slightly anxious.

I expected a quiet, reserved man who would want to shoot his scenes and leave, but when Johnny arrived it became clear that this wasn't the case.

He was very relaxed and down to earth, making time for photos with the crew and my kids who were there to meet Captain Jack.

Johnny Depp and Warwick Davis

The last shot of that day involved me sitting 'in' a toilet bowl while Johnny Depp described the scene into a dictaphone as if I was Rumpelstiltskin.

As the crew were setting up, Ricky was helping (actually stuffing) me into the toilet, as Johnny looked on.

It was at this point, I had an out-of-body experience.

In my mind's eye, I looked at the surreal scene - I'm hanging out, literally 'in' a toilet, with Ricky Gervais and Johnny Depp.

I pondered, does this mean my career is going well or not?

Some of most fun I had was doing the physical stuff, the slapstick. This was my nod to those childhood heroes of mine.

Fortunately, as a youngster, I had attended a theatre workshop one summer. I was taught stage fighting and acrobatics.

I knew how to take a hit and fall without getting hurt. I say without getting hurt, which was true at the age of 10, but at 41, falling out of a car or from a bookshelf take after take is not quite so painless.

So here we are, three years since its conception and Life's Too Short is finished.

What would my comedy heroes make of my efforts? Was that fall worthy of Oliver Hardy? Was that look to camera on par with David Brent?

I guess you'll be the judge of that.

Warwick Davis plays the lead role in Life's Too Short.

Life's Too Short starts on BBC Two on Thursday, 10 November at 9.30pm.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

To read a post by the writer of Life's Too Short, Ricky Gervais, please visit the BBC Comedy Blog.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • Comment number 40. Posted by mattshaw01

    on 2 Feb 2012 16:14

    All Kudos Warwick! I'm a little late to the party but every episode was a gem...and yes I saw Willow when it was released which betrays my age. This series is all you, spontaneous and wonderful. Looking forward to the next season - Brilliant!

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  • Comment number 39. Posted by Clive McDonald

    on 12 Jan 2012 22:32

    I loved it warwick. Very funny.My favourite bit ? When you told sting what you really thought. Absolutly brilliant.

    I do hope you do more- or if not- you get more 'telly' time.

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  • Comment number 38. Posted by skierhaynes

    on 9 Jan 2012 02:17

    WARWICK DAVIS IS FANTASTIC! I bought Willow, & if it had not have been for the wooden, sulky performance of the co-star, Kilmer, I am sure would have had much more commerccial success than it did. WARWICK IS A a BRILLIANT actor- please, please pass this onto him & ask him to do more comedy, his timing, intonation, range of facial expression are all excellent & I haven't laughed so much in a very long time. Whilst Gervais & Merchant can take credit for the script, the execution was what made it so excrutiatingly funny - he's a little person, I shouldn't be laughing - but hey, this is bloody funny. We all need to laugh at ourselves & the falling out of the 4x4 & the standing naked in the toilet throwing clothes at the window had me in stitches. A Classic - more please! P.S. i WOULD PAY FOR A SIGNED AUTOGRAPH OF WARWICK, AS LONG AS HE ISN'T IN HIS EWOK COSTUME - i WANT TO SEE HIS REAL GORGOUS FACE! pps i DON'T HAVE A TUMOUR! Much love & appreciation from an admirer, Skier Cath

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  • Comment number 37. Posted by David

    on 28 Dec 2011 15:54

    Hi

    I found the series of Life's Too Short very entertaining and amusing. It should be taken as it is and not hyper analysed for external views regarding formatting and content.

    Some people have complained about the use of Warwick in this series and the abuse of his height. This is nonsense, I congratulate Ricky on his concept and the use of him in this series.

    If people have viewed Ricky's work they will readily realise that this format his very similar to The Office. It is a fly on the wall documentary format with the style being a mirror of The Office and the big star listings a run off from Extras.

    There has also been some comments regarding Warwicks acting ability. Again anybody watching Ricky's previous work will realise that Warwick has in fact done as good job portraying an attitude and style in sync with Ricky's expectations.

    As for comments regarding it not being true to life and unreal. Surely most comedies contain scenes that need flexibility to maintain a comedic flow. Examples are Not Going Out which contain many scenes that require a "pinch of salt" and Benidorm (Gladiator Scene for example). We can all find "anomolies" in content!. We are not meant to take each scene apart to make it "normal" to our own common sense. We are meant to take it as it is and either find it funny or not.

    I am glad that a majority of people found the series entertaining and funny. Remember, though this series is based as a fly on the wall documentary, it is still meant to be a fictitious program designed to take us into a different made up comical world for a short period of time.

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  • Comment number 36. Posted by xc9968

    on 24 Dec 2011 21:42

    I didn't really enjoy the first episode at all but thought I'd stick with it...so glad I did. Very, very funny series, really hope it continues! The final episode had me laughing out loud...brilliant!

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  • Comment number 35. Posted by MrGrimsdale

    on 22 Dec 2011 12:12

    Brilliant. Once again Ricky has stretched the boundaries of original comedy, but Warwick was the star. I'm not lost on the irony of cleanlang (comment 11) who never watched it but taken the time and effort to come on this website to have a rant. And your contribution to the world of culture cleanlang? What a loser.

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  • Comment number 34. Posted by kevin colwill

    on 21 Dec 2011 15:52

    I found every episode of this series repaid a second viewing...a sure sign they must be doing something right!
    The laugh out loud moments have been Warwick doing physical comedy. This series has given us permission to laugh at a dwarf making a fool of himself because we know we're really watching a class act comic actor playing a role...even if that role is a twisted version of himself. I hope there will be a second series and an opportunity to see Warwick’s character on the comeback trail in the same vain as Alan Partridge.

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  • Comment number 33. Posted by WelshLizard11

    on 21 Dec 2011 08:57

    This was a superb comedy, it made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions, let us not forget that it was exactly as was 'written on the tin'- a very funny piece of comedy from 2 writers who haven't got their heads stuck in somewhere daft, we need more stuff like this!!

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  • Comment number 32. Posted by Peter

    on 16 Dec 2011 16:13

    Not sure about this series. It's almost too painful to watch as Warwick destroys yet another promising development again and again (eg the new girlfriend). There were a few laugh out loud moments last night (15th Dec). I loved the spy-hole gag with the setup first of moving it lower then back to where it was , then 5 mins later the camera pulls back to show the little run of steps up to the spy-hole. vg! But this was spoilt by the washing-machine gag that followed. I can't believe ANYONE would be stupid enough not to point out that they were moving the wrong machine. Enough said!

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  • Comment number 31. Posted by hf203

    on 13 Dec 2011 19:09

    Love the show. My daughter and I watch and feel such pain for Warwick. I work in the National Elf Service and have to be so politically correct all the time its great to be able to laugh at the under belly of life and show bizz. Well done Riky and Steve XX

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