He may only be 3 feet 6 inches, but size didn’t stop him from making it big in Hollywood. Warwick Davis has starred in some of the most prominent films such as Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, Willow, and of course the “Harry Potter” franchise. He has quite the cult following as a result, we admit that he charmed us with his wit and personality as he rolled in on his segway to chat about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Q: What is Flitwick’s role in the battle? What do you get to do?
Warwick Davis: I get a wand this time, which is great, because in the past my wand has never been used in anger, so it’s nice that this time I finally get to cast a few spells and dispatch a few Death Eaters, which is really nice. So in this sequence, he’s really putting up the shield around Hogwarts and bringing to life some of the stone statues and guardians. It’s interesting, we were out there rehearsing with Maggie and it’s kind of a pivotal moment because it’s the last resort to use this sort of security system and get all the statues to come out and guard the perimeter and everything. It’s a lockdown situation for Hogwarts. It’s quite, quite cool.
Q: Can you take us through the process of getting made up as Griphook?
Davis: Griphook’s make-up is a little longer than this. It’s a little bit heavier – the eyes, the nose, the ears, and I feel much more kind of contained within that. You know, this is my real neck here, whereas Griphook has a wrinkly neck right on down to here. I can’t hear very well in that make-up and then I have the contact lenses and the dentures as well, so it’s kind of as far from me as you could possibly get. This make-up is a lot easier to wear, and it’s actually my lips. That’s it. And my eyes. But I still have dentures for this character. But everything else you see is fake. What’s wonderful about the make-up effects people here is they’ve enabled me to play two different characters in the same film. I mean without these guys, for all the torture they put me through, however much I hate them, I couldn’t do what I do, so it’s sort of one of those love/hate relationships I have with all this stuff. But when you see it on film, it’s terribly convincing and terribly brilliant. And Griphook has been such a gift of a character because with Flitwick, he’s a lovely character to play, but he’s never really had any particular bearing on the plot of the films. For a character with light relief, some of the comedy needed grab Flitwick and he does something amusing. Whereas, Griphook is quite an integral part of the plot and he’s a very interesting character, you know, with whether you trust him or not. That was nice, nice to work with David and work through, but we’re still not finished with it yet. And it’s funny for me. I’ll be in one day as Griphook and the next day as Flitwick, so I call myself Flithook.
Q: You’re coming in as Flitwick. You’re coming in as Griphook. And then you’re also coming in I heard as a casting agent.
Davis: Indeed, I do have a third hat – without the big cigar. And that was really – first of all, an honor to be asked to actually provide 60 short actors to play goblins but also a great challenge because finding enough people under the height that they wanted who have the abilities and the stamina and the performance ability to play the goblins is–dare I say–a tall order. It was a challenge. We worked very closely with Jamie Christopher, etc, and we found the 60, and it was a great day, a few days actually. And what was quite interesting and fairly ironic I suppose is that I’m under the invisibility cloak at the point with Harry in the bank, so on those days, I didn’t have to be in make-up, so I was there reading off lines, invisible lines as it were, but I didn’t have to be there. It was quite a sight to see and a scene we hadn’t really created since the first film, but they all look terrific, really, really good. They do really, really well, and I think it’s the largest make-up job–I don’t know what the statistics are–whether it’s the largest in the UK for ever or the world, but it was a very big call to make-up artists. They brought them from all over Europe to come together to have this huge marquee made up of one big makeup room. It went very smoothly. It was a tremendous amount of work that goes into just preparing the pieces I’m wearing. You know, there have been people painting these before I get anywhere near them, and the goblins’ and Griphook’s makeup… Around here is my hairline on that character. The hair is punched in, so individual hairs are punched in so when you see it closely, it looks like the hair is growing out, and then the wig is fixed further back underneath. So all this hair punching takes a day, just that.
Q: How long does it take to get into makeup for each of your characters?
Davis: Flitwick is about three to three-and-a-half hours, and Griphook is about four hours.
Q: And then to take off?
Davis: About an hour to an hour and a half, right around in that area. You have to be very careful – especially when I’m working subsequent days. It doesn’t come off sort of Mrs. Doubtfire-style. I wish it was that easy. It’s a quite painstaking process to take off and preserve my skin, and then back at the hotel, I have to make sure I get all the glue off, and that’s another half hour there just to make sure it’s all off. I’m used to sitting in a makeup chair. It’s something I’ve done my entire career. As long as you get on with the makeup artist and have a report with them and you can just chat or watch DVDs. Well I watch DVDs. They can’t. And we listen to podcasts, music, and have fun with it really. It takes my mind off the glue and the annoyance of everything. They make it what it is. They make it a really pleasurable process. And Nick Dudman, who is the supervisor, he applies the makeup for Griphook, and I’ve worked with him ever since I started. And back in 1981, he did my very first lifecast, which is a process you have to go through before you have any sort of special makeup made, where they sort of, they dip alginate on your head and blast a bandage on the top and they create what is essentially a bust of your head, and then they can take clay and sculpt on that the shape of the character’s face and through some sort of process I don’t quite understand, they take those two bits apart, and they can create these bits that have been scultped in clay to fit your face. That was the worst technical explanation of anything. But Nick did my very first lifecast for “Star Wars” back in 1981. So I’ve worked with him on “Stars Wars,” “Labyrinth,” “Willow” and then of course all of the “Potter” films.
Q: Speaking of that, you’ve had such an incredible career. As “Potter” comes to an end, another iconic character you’ve created… Looking back over that career, what are some of the more iconic characters that stand out to you?
Davis: Wicket the Ewok, the very first character I ever played and what set me on this road, which is my career, I suppose, so that would be iconic. Then Willow, another landmark character and a film that is still eventually popular now, surprisingly. It’s one of those timeless things that people sort of pass on to their children and their grandchildren. It has stood the test of time, certainly. Then I suppose your’ve got — dare I say the Leprechaun? In some people’s eyes, we can say that. And then I suppose it’s got to be Professor Flitwick then.
Q: How is “Potter” different from all these other roles?
Davis: Working on these films, you do feel the enormity of it. As an actor, at the sharp end, you sort of feel that huge weight behind you, and it can be quite daunting because you think “Oh my gosh, I’m the one in front of the camera here, and I’m the only one representing all of this great machine that’s behind me here,” and that can be quite daunting thing. And especially what’s daunting about “Potter” for me is we’ve got millions of people around the world who have read these books and have an image of these characters and how they behave and how they interact with each other and how this whole thing unfolds, and we’re charged with that responsibilty of kind of representing that, which is kind of a bit daunting as well. Not so much now as we’re gaining confidence as we go through the films as actors I suppose you feel more comfortable with it and feel more accepted, but initially that was one of the things that is difficult. “God, I hope this is a close” – You have to find a balance. You think “Well, this is what I’d like to do, but I’m sure this is a little bit closer to what is in people’s minds,” so you kind of find that balance. But these films, the support, and the family kind of atmosphere there is now, we’ve all been together now for close to 10 years and it really is like going back to school each time we come back for another movie, and we’ve had a sort of holiday and are back for a new term. Some of the characters have got new hair-dos, which is what always happens, with a sort of slightly new uniform. Some people have left, and there’s some new people as well. You know, all of that stuff. It’s very much like being in school as you’re doing this.
Q: Can you explain the difference between the original Flitwick in the first two movies?
Davis: I mean as a character, he’s quite different. I enjoyed playing the sort of Flitwick Mark 1, the old Flitwick. He’s quite an eccentric sort of teacher. He was obviously a lot older, so I enjoyed kind of finding the age in him, his little weak knees. He loved to gesticulate a lot to explain stuff, which is always like what a science teacher is like. I went to public school, and they always used to gesticulate as they explained things, get very enthusiastic and excited about what they were taking about to impart knowledge to the students, so that’s kind of what I based him on, was teachers that I grew up with. And a character that I’ve played as a kind of 11, 12-year-old, and I have video of me in my bedroom with a laboratory set up playing this character with a big wig on, and that was sort of one of the little seeds of Flitwick that I always wanted to play. He’s the kind of teacher that I think if you hadn’t done your homework,you’d actually go, “Professor Flitwick, I’m sorry I didn’t manage to do my charms homework last night,” and he’d be, “Don’t worry, just bring it in tomorrow.” Whereas this Flitwick, he’s a little more fiesty. He likes to think he’s got more control of the students, more discipline, and I think they humor him because they see he’s small and they wouldn’t want to kind of undermine that sort of authority so they kind of actually just go along with that. He thinks he’s got a firm reign on everybody, and he’s always the one that would end up somewhere or making a bit of a fool of himself.
Q: Why was the change?
Davis: It’s a very complicated story. I’ll try to symplify. It is a question I’m asked quite a lot. The third script was written and there was nothing for Professor Flitwick in it, and I was sad. But then David Heyman phoned me up and said, “We’re really sorry you’re not in the script, but we’d really like to have you as part of the film. Would you consider doing another character?” And I said, “I’ll let you know, I’ll think about it.” No I didn’t. I said, “YEAH! Yes, Yes! Thank you!” And then I came in and had a meeting with Alfonso Cuarón and Nick Dudman and we decided that this is kind of how we would design the character. He would be essentially a choir conductor. I like to think of him as the professor of magical music. So he was indeed added for #3. Then #4 started and Michael Newell made the decision that he liked the look of this character, and I simply said to him on the first day, “So is this Professor Flitwick?” And he said, “Yes.” And that’s it. No more thought went into it. But it is something that confuses people. I like to think there’s possibly some sort of family connection here. You know, the other guy is perhaps Professor Flitwick, and I am Flitwick. I’m a relative somehow. That’s how I justify in my own head.
Q: So no Mark 1?
Davis: You won’t see him anymore. He was good. I can bring him back for a second if you want. (In accent), “Do you all have your feathers? Let me see your swish and flick? Follow me everyone, a swish and flick. Splendid!” So he’s still there. I love doing that with a group of children. We’ll be talking about the development of character perhaps in acting, and I’ll say, “Well this is interesting. This is how we develop Professor Flitwick.” And they’ll be like, [silence].
Q: Can you tell us about filming the Gringott scene?
Davis: It was a scene we’d obviously built up, having been involved with the casting and everything, it was quite a big build-up certainly in my mind working towards these few days when we were going to shoot the scene. They recreated the bank beautifully, which was originally a location in London, and now for this one, we had to produce it as a set. Yeah, working towards it, we had a couple of preperation days where they actually had all of the goblin actors in and basically made them up as kind of a rehearsal run and then transported everybody down to the set logistically, to see how moving that many actors, who are all in prosthetics, how long it all took. And so by the time it came to actually shoot for the three days, it was a very smooth operation and everybody was kind of moved in and we had contact lenses going in. It was like a bit of a production. And into the dentures area, where everyone got their teeth… Yeah, it was very well-oiled machine, basically.
Q: What about the vault scene?
Davis: We haven’t done that yet. I’m looking forward to that. I walked past one of the special effects chaps the other day and saw that they were actually constructing the goblets, and I was like, “Wow, look at all them!” And he said, “This is nothing. This is a thousand. We need to make seven thousand of these.” They’re having to spray them gold. The poor guy. He’s looking like he’s going crossed-eyes. I bet he sees them in his sleep. They’re everywhere! And you think in the day of CGI, well we’re not going to see one goblet, but there are actually going to be 7,000 goblets. And I think that’s what sets these films apart slightly. You know, we do use the tools of CGI to enhance everything, but quite a lot of it is actually here. There is actually a Great Hall, and for all intents and purposes, it’s complete apart from the enchanted ceiling. Everything is as you see it in the movie. Where working on a “Star Wars” prequel I have done, you walk onto a set and it is only a little piece of a wall, and the rest is green screen. So for an actor, it’s a beautiful experience working on something live because you are actually there. Out on the courtyard. You look around you and you’re in that three dimensional space, and you can imagine perfectly well what all this is like, not leaving quite so much to the imagination.
Q: I know George always had more ideas for “Willow” features. Have you guys spoken at all? Is there any potential movement toward going back to that world?
Davis: Well I did actually speak to George about this because, again, it’s one of the most frequent questions I get asked. I’ve said, “You know, people would love to see ‘Willow 2.'” He said, “Well, we did talk about doing a TV series for awhile,” but Ron [Howard] said, “If we ever did, we’d have to re-cast because you’re too old.” I think he was joking. He’s got a very dry sense of humor. What a great thing it would be to re-visit it because personally as an actor, I’m a lot older, I’m a lot wiser now and know more about acting then I did then, so it’d be great if I could have another kind of stab at it and at the same time, explore the character, you know, where is he now. Is he a better sorcerer than he was? I think it was a world that was established enough that you could easily visit again and see more of. Yeah, never say never, I’d be up for it.
Q: Is that something you would help to develop?
Davis: I mean I would maybe be the catalyst, but George doesn’t ever accept scripts from anyone else. It has to come from him. But I could go, “Oy! Oy! Oy!” Because that’s what I did for “Star Wars: Episode ” – I just kept pestering him. Some people consider “Episode 1” my fault. My book comes out on the 15th of April, just incidentally. It’s called “Size Matters Not.” It’s a Yoda expression. It recounts my last 30 years of acting, plus my childhood as well. Thanks guys, it’s been excellent talking to you. I have to go out and save Hogwarts now.
Q: Do you want to set up what you’re doing today?
Davis: It’s time to kind of lock down Hogwarts, and I go out into the courtyard with McGonagal and Miss Weasley to basically kind of set up the perimeter guard against Voldemort, and we know it’s almost a bit frivolous because we know he’s going to get in. So yes, it’s quite a heroic moment for me. I have not been involved in anything quite so heroic before, so it’s quite nice. we’re actually summoning up the shield, this big shield. I don’t know how it’s going to look yet, and that’s one thing that we do on these, we actually will see previews and stuff. So when we did the secrets for Ripple going down to the vaults, we haven’t done that, but we did do the car going down there, and we were able to see previews of what that was all going to look like, so you can have that in your mind and can kind of run that little movie as you’re performing the scene. So yeah, no doubt, we’ll see images of what the shield is going to look like. And David Yates is very good at kind of describing it to you and putting those images in your head, and I’ve really enjoyed working with him actually. He’s a very quiet and sort of unassuming man. He’s somebody who after a take, I can kind of just look at him and he’ll look at me and I’ll be like, “Don’t worry, I know exactly what you mean.” He doesn’t have to say very much. It’s been a real actual pleasure to work with him on these films. How the man does it, I’ll never know. I mean he never stops. Even when the first unit isn’t working, the second unit is, and David will still be there watching over what’s going on. And even if he’s working on first until, he’s still watching what we’re doing on second unit, so he can check out that we’re not misbehaving.
Q: Do you prefer playing Flitwick or Griphook?
Davis: That’s a difficult question. Both of them are good. That sounds very diplomatic, but Griphook is such a more involved character. He’s a sneaky character, he’s essentiall y a villain, which is a lot more fun to perform. Flitwick is much more… they’re just quite opposite ends of the scale. So I couldn’t say I prefer one over the other. You know, as an actor, people say choose your favorite character you’ve ever played, and because what you do as an actor is find a little seed of you and that becomes the start of the character, you have a connection and a fondness for all the characters. So to choose one is really hard work…Flitwick, then. Just because he’s someone I’d want to hang out with then. I wouldn’t want to hang out with Griphook. You’d never know quite whether to trust him or not. So I’ll have a beer with Flitwick.