Warwick Davis: The actor on his best role, 'Star Wars' vs Harry Potter and the joy of 'Columbo'
'My life changed when I got a part in 'Return of the Jedi' as Wicket'
I run my own acting agency for short people We have more than 100 short actors on our books at Willow Management, though I run it slightly better than the version of me that I play in [BBC sitcom] Life's Too Short. The agency is also less exploitative and I don't take all the best jobs in real life! We've got a lot of great people there, though; [short people] don't often get the chance to shine. Fortunately in my career, I have been given the opportunity to show what I can do.
My life changed when I got a part in 'Return of the Jedi' [as the Ewok scout, Wicket] I'd already seen Star Wars when I was seven, so it was a powerful experience being 11 years old, and seeing the actual film set and meeting my heroes. I was intrigued to see how films were put together and edited, and it was the first time I had come face to face with other little people. It made me realise I wasn't alone. [Davis has a form of dwarfism called Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia.]
A white actor wouldn't black-up to play a black actor So why cast average-height people in the role of short people in films? When I watched Snow White and the Huntsman last year [starring Kristen Stewart] I was distracted by taller actors [such as Ray Winstone] playing the roles of the seven dwarfs. The other Snow White film released that year, Mirror Mirror, used little people, and that's how it should be.
I'd love to play a role that has nothing to do with height Which is why I'm working on The Reduced Height Theatre Company, starting next year. It'll feature only short actors doing proper plays, on a reduced-height set – so it's a level playing field. We'll start with the classic farce [by Philip King] See How They Run, though I'd love to do JB Priestley.
Appearing in 'Dr Who' was my greatest role I played this character Porridge [alongside Matt Smith, in the penultimate episode of series seven, "Nightmare in Silver"], and I felt there was so much going on with that role, in terms of who he really was. He's a guy that's emperor of the universe. And, like me, he'd had a lot of success, but was trying to be a real person even though the pressure of his job was huge. That resonated with me and it touched a lot of people. That will definitely go on my showreel.
I have bad joints If I've been active all day I know I'll pay for it the next morning. It takes me an hour each day just to get my elbows, knees and hips mobile again. Right now I'm doing all this choreography on stage, rehearsing for [West End stage show] Spamalot, but I have so much desire to perform the pain doesn't matter. It sounds masochistic, but it's what I'm used to.
Watching 'Columbo' on DVD is my guilty pleasure My wife and two kids call it "Columbo Day", where we watch episodes together back to back. Yes it's cheesy, you know who the killer is from the opening and you know that Columbo is going to find out who did it. But there's still something comforting about watching him do it.
If I had to choose between a new Harry Potter or a future 'Star Wars'… Hmm...it's a tricky one. But I would have to go with the planned Star Wars films by JJ Abrams. It's where I started and it would be wonderful to be part of the new trilogy.
Warwick Davis, 43, is an actor and director. He stars alongside Jennifer Ellison in 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' at the Milton Keynes Theatre from 6 December to 12 January. For tickets, tel: 0844 871 7652, atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes
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