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28 October 2014
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A Star Wars role to Jedi for...
Warwick celebrates the arrival of the new Potter book!
Warwick tries the Harry Potter look!
There are not many people in Cambridgeshire who can say that they are on first name terms with top film director George Lucas, but Peterborough's Warwick Davis can!
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Potty about Potter?
Peterborough celebrates the new Harry Potter book...

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Get Rid Of Your Gremlins

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Warwick Davis.
Warwick Davis

In a career spanning more than 20 years, Warwick, at three feet six inches tall, has appeared in some of the most popular movies of all time, including 'Star Wars: Return of the Jedi', 'Willow' and the 'Leprechaun' movies. He's also appeared in the blockbusting 'Harry Potter' films and several high-profile TV adverts too!

From Peterborough to Potter

The Leprechaun!

Get Rid Of Your Gremlins!

A lucky break
Warwick's career as an actor came about purely by chance. In 1981, his grandmother heard a radio announcement calling for people under four feet tall to appear in the new Star Wars film, 'Return of the Jedi'.

Warwick explains, "I got my break into this business through my height. I was 11 years old, I was only two feet eleven inches at that time and my grandmother heard that they were looking for small people to be in the new 'Star Wars' film. I went to the studios with my mum and was immediately measured up for a costume. I didn't have to audition, so I got that role based purely on my size."

Star Wars
In this first role he was picked out by director George Lucas to take a more prominent role and his career took off from there - a toy figure was even made of his character in the film.

Originally cast as a background artist, his gestures were so characteristic of George Lucas's vision of an Ewok, that he was recast as 'Wicket' who became one of the film's lead creature characters. "I based Wicket's inquisitive nature and movements on my pet dog" he says.

However, Warwick certainly hasn't relied on his size to get roles. "I would have made a mistake if I’d have said I’m short so I can be an actor" he says. "I didn’t rely on the fact that I was short. I started acting classes, took exams and got training, so that instead of being known as somebody short who does films, hopefully I’m now known as an actor who just happens to be short."

Warwick's height has been a real gift to him in his profession as there are a lot of films around at the moment that require an actor of his stature. "The majority of the roles that I've ever had have been in the fantasy, science fiction genres" he says, "and we're currently seeing a resurgence of that kind of film. It last happened in the 80s and now there is a new generation of children who are looking out for this kind of entertainment."

So, was there a moment in time when he realised that he wasn't going to grow any more? "There was never a specific moment in my childhood when it struck me that I was short" he says, "it is something that I’ve always lived with and have kind of grown into. Even today it’s not something I think about until someone actually reminds me of it. To be any other way now would be most odd and a bit uninteresting!"

His rise to stardom sounds like a fantasy in itself and Warwick admits that he has been very fortunate. "It was a lot of luck, both in the way that my grandmother heard the commercial, then in the way that it developed" he says. "I formed a good relationship with George Lucas... and he asked me to come back to play the same Ewok character in two television movies. It just kept on snowballing from that point."

After the success of 'Return of the Jedi' and the two TV movies, he appeared alongside David Bowie in the fantasy film 'Labyrinth' in 1985.

He played a goblin in the film and of the experience he says, "you have to be fairly quick to spot which one’s me because there are 40 or so other goblins there, but it was fantastic and David is a really nice guy - very down to earth."

Out from behind the mask
In 1987, Warwick was called to Elstree Studios to meet with Ron Howard and George Lucas about a new project called 'Willow' that was written specifically with him in mind.

This was the first opportunity that he had to show that his acting talent extended beyond the portrayal of strange creatures. Now out of the creature costumes that he usually wore, he was able to depict real human emotion.

"It was a definite change in angle for me in my career" he says. "It presented a whole new set of challenges for me as a performer because when you’re inside a mask and a big heavy costume, you exaggerate all of your movement so that the emotion has to get through all of that. When they took that away I had to tone everything right down because the slightest movement of an eyebrow or a cheek can say volumes on the big screen."

After 'Willow' he was soon back in front of the camera, this time for the small screen. He was cast in two series of the BBC's 'The Chronicles of Narnia' playing the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep in 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' and Glimfeather the Owl in 'The Silver Chair'.

Cult status
In 1992, Warwick starred in a film that has achieved true cult status. In the film 'Leprechaun', which has prompted no less that FIVE sequels, he features as the little green menace who will stop at nothing to get his gold. Up to this point, Warwick had always been cast as the 'goodie' and so was thrilled to learn that this leprechaun was the 'baddie'. "It is every actor's dream to play an evil character, a part to really get your thespian teeth into" he says.

"From an acting standpoint I jumped at the opportunity to do this film because unless you diversify you can be pigeonholed and I wanted to show that I was a fairly diverse actor."

Back to Star Wars
Since then, he has appeared as Grildrig in 'Gulliver's Travels' on US television, as Lucky the Leprechaun in 'A Very Unlucky Leprechaun' and made a return to the Star Wars project in 1997, playing no less than four roles in 'Episode One - The Phantom Menace' even though it meant his face would be hidden again. "I'm not going to turn down a role if it’s back behind a mask again - I love acting" he says.

However, during the making of this film, Lucas recognised that he had covered Warwick up again and this led to the actor taking on a number of roles.

"While filming George kind of felt bad that he’d put me back inside a mask" he says. So the director asked him to be a spectator during the pod race and in the back of another scene, both without masks!

He also played the famous Jedi master Yoda for scenes where the character was required to walk. "A little bit of star wars trivia that the fans enjoy" he jokes...

Warwick Davis
Warwick in 'Murder Rooms'

Get Rid Of Your Gremlins
Warwick remains extremely busy and in the past few years has been seen in 'The 10th Kingdom', 'The Fitz', 'Murder Rooms - The Kingdom of Bones' and several TV adverts.

Warwick was proud to have been a part in the government's campaign to encourage adults with literacy and maths difficulties to enrol on courses... the pesky grey gremlin was a memorable character in the 'Get Rid Of Your Gremlins' campaign!

Warwick also plays a gnome in the adverts for 'Top Up TV'.

From Peterborough to Potter!
His latest, and probably his most high profile role recently is that of the Hogwart's School's Charms' Master, Professor Flitwick in 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'. He played the same role in the first and second of J.K. Rowling's blockbuster books, 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' and 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'.

Professor Flitwick is "a fabulous character" he says, "probably my favourite character to date actually." He says that he was very nervous at the audition because he really wanted to do it. "I had to wait three weeks to find out" he says, "and it was the most agonising time."

Warwick is pleased to be able to use his role in this top film to help unlock the secrets of the acting world to youngsters. He is more than happy touring schools and playgroups answering the many questions that the children have for him.

"The best thing about my role is being able to bring a smile to the faces of so many children. Professor Flitwick is a great character to play" he says. "It's great to be able to answer the questions in person."

Not very glamorous
But filming Harry Potter is not as glamorous as fans of the film might think. He says that a normal working day can last up to 18 hours but longer if the weather is bad. Which, let's face it, is quite likely! But it's not just the filming that takes a long time. It takes nearly four hours a day for the intricate Professor Flitwick make-up to be applied!

"Filming is long and hard" he says "Sometimes I commute from Peterborough, other times I stay in London. It does take its toll on family life. But every time I’m in London I realise why I haven’t moved there and it’s quite accessible from here. It’s really not neccessary as an actor to live there. A lot of the time you are on location throughout the country anyway and Peterborough is fairly central ."

Warwick's life in film has led to many other things as well, including a successful business, friendships and love!

A real community
There were 40 or 50 short people in 'Star Wars' from this country alone and the same people tend to turn up on the same film sets so you make lots of friends! One of them is his father in law and with him he formed an agency for short actors called Willow Management. "I now represent all those people that I grew up working with" he says.

He is also married to a small person. He met his wife Samantha in Cambridge in 1988 while they were both working in Snow White at the Arts Theatre. They have a daughter Annabel who is also small. The family go on location with him as much as they can and his daughter loves 'Harry Potter'. She doesn't see her father as being Professor Flitwick though. "I'm just dad who dresses up silly" he says.

So what of the future? "At my age I still don’t feel I've achieved quite enough, I strive for perfection in performance." he explains. "You never know what's coming up" he says, "every day is an adventure."

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