How We Met: Paul Zerdin & Warwick Davis
Sunday 21 August 2011
Warwick Davis, 41
An actor, Davis is best known for his roles in films including 'Return of the Jedi' (in which he played the Ewok Wicket), 'Willow' and most recently as Professor Filius Flitwick in the 'Harry Potter' franchise. He lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife and children
My first impression of Paul was that he was a bit above himself. I was directing my first pantomime, a production of Snow White in Dartford in 1997, and he had the role as the comic story teller. Paul wouldn't turn up for rehearsals, as he was too busy doing gigs, so we got off to a bad start. But when he did come in, he made up for it by picking things up very quickly and giving his all to the performance.
I don't know many people with his sort of warped childish humour, and I quickly discovered Paul and I were on the same wavelength. We started hanging out more and I'd feel invigorated afterwards.
I also started going to some of his shows. To an everyman, ventriloquism is quite an odd profession, but it's not weird to me: as an actor I do stuff even odder; it's part of being a performer. Normally you'd associate what is quite a traditional medium with summer-camp shows, but he's pushed the boundaries and taken it into the stand-up arena, and it's brilliant comedy. He always seeks my opinion on his material, too. It's important to have someone who will tell you how it really is.
When I first met him he only knew how to communicate with his puppets, and acted very awkwardly around my baby daughter Annabelle, but over the years he's become more family-oriented, and when my son Harrison sees him, he goes straight up and sits on Paul's knee.
Paul joined my family on holiday recently. We lay on the beach by a wonderful ocean and talked a lot about scripts and what makes a good gag. He is quite a snob, though; everything has to be top notch when it comes to service, so it was quite fun to watch his demands.
I'm fairly down to earth, even if I do get recognised occasionally, while Paul acts a bit showbiz at times. He knows it annoys me and I try to keep him grounded. He had a helicopter lesson yesterday so I'm half-expecting him to start flying into theatres and land on the roof during his tour – it's in the back of his mind. He says it's just a hobby but I've a feeling he's becoming Noel Edmonds.
Paul Zerdin, 39
An acclaimed stand-up and puppeteer, Zerdin has helped reinvigorate the art of ventriloquism with his humorous, edgy style. He lives in south-west London
Initially, I didn't like Warwick at all. I'd been booked to play the comic in a Snow White he was directing, but I was busy doing other shows all over the place too, so for the first week's rehearsal I didn't come at all and he got very agitated. Being a Star Wars geek I knew who he was and I was a big fan of all the other stuff he'd done, as he has an incredible warmth exuding from him on screen. So when he started acting bossy, I got quite upset; he wasn't what I expected.
It wasn't until opening night – which I stormed – that we started getting on better. We realised we actually had a lot in common. We're both massive Steve Coogan fans and we've both occupied this weird Muppet world, having both worked on Jim Henson productions.
Warwick has helped me enormously with my work. He has this whole TV producing side to him and he's amazing at film editing; he did my first show reel years ago, and he's helping me with a video promo of my Sponge Fest tour and a sitcom I've been working on.
I've worked with short people before and quite often they're selected solely because of their height; what sets Warwick [who is 3ft 6in] apart is that he is a brilliant actor in his own right. My nickname for him is Captain Short Arse, but in truth, I never really think about it, though I think that because he's grown up with the height thing, it's made him much more patient than me.
He's only a few years older than me, and shares my childish humour, but he's a proper responsible grown-up, so when I look at him, part of me thinks that's what I should be doing; settling down and have a family. If I did have kids, I'd want them to be like Annabelle and Harrison, because they're so incredibly cool.
Warwick is also more grounded than me. I love all that showbiz bollocks, like going to the Ivy. When you start doing loads of interviews, you do start thinking you're important. But at the back of my mind I do know it's all nonsense. So I think it's a bit audacious of him to call me Mr Showbiz, especially when you see what he does. We were on holiday a few months ago and he was the one who suggested chartering a plane and a catamaran for the day, going round some Caribbean islands. It was his idea; I was the one who had to live up to it.
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