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Warwick Davis gives a big update on the Willow series, which will hopefully include way fewer horses [Ep #116]
Warwick Davis is in a very good place.
The iconic 49-year-old English actor is now at the point in his career where he's both originating roles and returning to some of his most famous characters. In the case of the former, Davis recently played the dungeon-bound pixie tinkerer Lickspittle in Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. As for returning to characters, Davis just returned to Endor in a brief cameo as Wicket the Ewok in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and he may — may — return as Willow in a TV series continuation of the 1988 fantasy classic.
The equivocation and caution are important because, despite recent reports and a tweet from writer Jon Kasdan, the series is still in development.
"It's a kind of a weird bit of news," Davis told SYFY WIRE in an interview with the Fandom Files podcast. "The internet has done its thing in kind of perpetuating that and kind of generating the excitement around it, which is good. There is development going on, but there's no kind of greenlit, here we go guys, this is happening. At this point, nothing's official, nothing's greenlit, nothing's a go. But we all have fingers firmly crossed and we're doing our best to make this happen for the fans because they've been there the whole time since 1988 when it came out."
It's that fan power that has brought the idea of continuing a one-off movie released 32 years ago this close to reality in the first place.
"What's lovely about Willow is that there's so much love for the film, so much excitement about the possibility of there being more Willow, and there has been for years and years and years," he says. "So now, when there's a little bit of work being done to actually develop this and make this something that will be a reality, the internet has got ahead of itself a little bit and the excitement of the fandom has got ahead of where we are."
Davis spoke more about the most important aspects of making the original Willow, as well as Maleficent and other projects. You can listen to the whole interview here or read important highlights below.
You're really hands-on with the baby you're carrying in Willow — no real break there. And I read there were a lot of different babies used.
There were a lot of babies. In rehearsals for Willow, I would have to do sword fighting and horse riding and all these things that I thought as a 17-year-old were really done in rehearsals and all that stuff. Then there were these baby sort of classes as well that I had to go to, where I had to learn how to hold the baby correctly, how to change a diaper, and all of these things that are completely not fun for a 17-year-old to do.
But I had to look like I knew what I was doing. In the story, Willow is a father of two kids, so he should look very comfortable holding a baby. It wasn't the most fun for me. I enjoy the action stuff, the swashbuckling and the sword fighting and the stunts.
During the actual filming, there were numerous different babies used as Elora Danan. There were twins, actually, who played Elora Danan. So if one wasn't in the quite right frame of mind to be giving the reactions that were required, they would then bring the other twin and to see whether that one would respond correctly.
Then there was also a mechanical baby. We used to call it Mojo Baby, and that one could move its head from side to side. It was very heavy, actually heavier than the real baby. Indeed, if I fell over or dropped it, it wouldn't mind because it was battery-operated and it didn't matter. Then there was also a kind of a mannequin, which was a bit softer. So if I fell over with that one, I wouldn't hurt myself or injure any kind of mechanics.
I ran into one of the twins in New Zealand when I was filming The Chronicles of Narnia movie down there. I was staying in Queenstown, which is where we shot. One of the twins worked — there was a flight simulation sort of center there, and I was off work one day and I went to it, and she said I was Elora Danan.
Not only did you have to look like you knew how to take care of a baby, but you also had to do it while on a horse.
I didn't particularly like the horse riding side of things because I'd had a bad experience on a horse when I was younger. My sister had horses, and one day she persuaded me to get on it, and it decided to just run off and I couldn't stop it. So I wasn't very comfortable around horses but then had to learn to horse ride.
After Willow, I ended up going through this run of projects where they all revolved around horses. I was like, "Why is this happening? Why can't it be cars? I love driving fast cars. Why can I not have a movie about cars? Why is it always horses?" So it was carriage driving. I had to learn how to carriage drive, and then I ended up getting on about three or four projects where I drove carriages or worked with horses really closely, where I had to walk under the meek horses and all that. I became a little too familiar with horses, to be honest.
I was kind of suppressing my fear most of the time. I want to say just quickly, Val Kilmer used to wind me up because he loved his horse to be particularly frisky and full of energy. Well, I like mine to be really placid and sleeping and dopey. He used to actually try to rile his horse up a bit before the take so it would be trotting around and look really ... Mine would then start getting a little of that energy as well. I'd be like, "Val, stop doing that." He used to really have fun in seeing me get stressed out, basically.
If you do the Willow sequel, are they going to put you back on a horse? Or do you have the power to be like, "No horses"?
Any projects I get involved with now, I'll kind of look straightaway through the script to see if there are any horses. In Maleficent, there were horses, but I didn't have to get on any of them and I wasn't particularly near any of them. I'm more happy to look at them. They're beautiful animals. But with my feet on the ground is where I prefer to remain.
Like you said, lots of horses in Maleficent, but for you, it was a lot of time in a dungeon as Lickspittle, which is an incredible name, by the way. The main inconvenience there seems to be the costume.
When you see him without all of his hazmat suits on and all of that stuff, without his protection on, he's actually quite a cute character. Initially, when you just hear him see a little bit of him through the letterbox at the beginning of the movie, you don't know where you are with this guy. Then slowly through the movie you kind of learn a little bit more about him and get to know him, and realize that he's not as bad as he's made out to be. What he's doing is totally bad. But at his heart, he's not evil. He's doing these things because he's been put in this position. It's a matter of survival for him. I think that's a really interesting journey for the character.
It must have been fun to be a creep, at least for a little while.
They're almost always the most fun roles. As an actor, you do often crave those roles. Griphook was another role just like that, where the audience don't quite know where they are with the character. To play a baddie is great because it's very unlike you as a person. I mean, most actors are nice people. To be able to be the kind of villainous, evil, mischievous, all of those kinds of things, are fun to do.
My favorite villainous Warwick Davis character is Warwick Davis in the mockumentary sitcom Life's Too Short, just an egotistical sad sack.
That was really so fun to do as well because he is me, but getting to be a Warwick that can say and do those things was very liberating. I don't go around on the streets like that normally. But that Warwick, he's much like Lickspittle; he's forced into that behavior by the world around him. Though Lickspittle is imprisoned in a dungeon for the queen and is being forced to create a mechanism to kill fairies. And in Life's Too Short, it's survival in the world for this poor man whose career is failing.
The scene in Life's Too Short, it's at the beginning of the second episode, where a mother tries to get you to sign an autograph for a kid for free because he has a tumor. Your disregard is amazing.
If I appear at a science fiction convention, there'll always be one person that says that to me when they're getting their autograph from me. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant were brilliant; we'd talk for hours about my life and career and all of those things, and I'd tell them stories, and then they'd take those little nuggets and stories and then spin them up into these amazing scenes. Much of what you see in Life's Too Short is actually based on things that have happened to me.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.