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

Thursday 10 November 2011, 10:10

Warwick Davis Warwick Davis Actor

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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

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.

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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.

Warwick Davis with Johnny Depp

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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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Really looking forward to this. Hope it lives up to expectations and reasonably confident that it will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I love Warwick Davis and will definitely be watching this programme.
    Having read Warwick's book “Size Matters Not” it’ll be good to see how much this comedy mirrors his real life experiences albeit with tongue in cheek exaggeration/manipulation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Like Laura888 I read his autobiography, which is just brilliant, and when I heard about this I thought it would be amazing. With 15 mins to go I hope it lives up to my expectations - I'm sure it will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I have my fingers crossed this is going to grow on me but on the first viewing I was sadly disappointed.
    The main problem for me was believability. I struggled to believe the situations and characters. Warwick was the most believable. Scenes with him and other less familiar actors worked well but when he finally met Ricky and Stephen it fell apart. Ricky and Stephen together 'interviewing' Carl is a familiar sight and the banter and humour is side splitting funny. In this program they scripted themselves opposite Warwick and the difference was obvious. Ricky can act shifty glances in one of his characters but he doesn't do it that way in real life (if you've watched him as often and as eagerly as I have you will know what I mean) so when he shot glances of disbelief my own suspension of disbelief crumbled.
    Also, I can believe a celeb on the set of a film having banter with an 'unknown' extra but I'm sure if one walked into Ricky and Stephen's office the whole thing would pan out differently. If Ricky and Stephen had been playing big shot Hollywood producers (and let's face it, with Ricky's new slimmed down body, he could easily have been playing someone else) I could have believed the scene with Neeson but as it was everyone knows the real Ricky would react differently.
    I will watch all episodes and try very hard to re-suspend my disbelief in the hope I can find the humour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I watched the first episode last night. Brilliant in every way, especially the dialogue with Liam Neeson. Mr Davis, if you're reading your blog posts - great comedy. And I would have had that out-of-body experience in the loo too. Am looking forward to the rest of the series.


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