In 1982, everything changed for one young aspiring 11-year-old. Not only had he landed his dream job in the next Star Wars film, all thanks to his grandma, but as luck would have it, a stomach bug forced Kenny Baker to pull out of the role of Wicket in Return of the Jedi, and Warwick Davis was “promoted” from a mere background character to the role of the most important Ewok in the galaxy.
In the film, he befriended Princess Leia on the forest moon of Endor, and since then he has made many friends both on and off screen, as we saw in the finished film and also the mockumentary Return of the Ewok which was made by first assistant on Jedi, David Tomblin. This light hearted behind-the-scenes look at the making of Jedi gave us an insight into Warwick Davis and a fictional look at becoming an actor, with many of the cast of Jedi making an appearance, too.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, we take a look back at the illustrious career of Warwick Davis, the star of the film and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
Almost as soon as Caravan of Courage was finished and released, work was underway on a sequel, Ewoks: The Battle of Endor. A year later Davis played alongside David Bowie in Labyrinth before getting a call in 1987 from Ron Howard and George Lucas to discuss a new project called Willow, written specifically with him in mind, in which he starred alongside Val Kilmer.
Various TV roles and other bit parts came Davis’ way before he was offered the title role in Leprechaun, starring Jennifer Anniston in her first film role. The film wasn’t particularly well received by the critics but many loved it, and it led to six sequels. In 1999 Davis returned to a Star Wars to play three roles in The Phantom Menace — Wald (Anakin’s Rodian friend), Weazel (a gambler who we see with Watto — and the only time we see Davis’ face on screen), and Yoda (for walking parts).
2001 saw the release of the first Harry Potter film in which Davis played Professor Flitwick, a role he reprised in all but one of the eight Harry Potter films. In the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2, released in 2010 and 2011 respectively, he also played the role of Griphook who was pivotal to the plot of the final installment of the Potter franchise. In between the Potter films he was able to star as Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well as various TV appearances including Extras for the BBC with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. His appearance in Extras proved pivotal as it led to them creating and writing a sitcom especially for Davis called Life’s Too Short that aired in 2011 and 2012.
Davis was the host for the first Star Wars Celebration in Europe, in London 2007, a role he later revisited when Celebration came back to Europe, in Germany 2013. He has interviewed many of the stars of Star Wars including Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Jeremy Bulloch, Peter Mayhew, Kathleen Kennedy, Dave Filoni, and many others.
At this point, it’s important to stop and realize that Davis has been immortalized in plastic in more LEGO minifigures than any other actor — minifigures exist for Wicket, Wald, Professor Flitwick, and Griphook. If doesn’t matter if you count Yoda or not, he still holds this record.
Despite suffering from a rare genetic disorder called SED (spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita) which causes dwarfism, Davis has led a very active career and shows no signs of slowing down at all. He does lots of work for charity, and set up Little People UK in January 2012, an organization that offers friendship and support to people with dwarfism, their families, and friends, and they can be found on Facebook and Twitter. Davis is also a patron of Make-A-Wish Foundation in the UK.
The last 18 months have probably been Warwick’s busiest, especially in the UK, where he now fronts two prime time TV shows – Weekend Escapes with Warwick Davis which sees him traveling around Britain with his family (he’s just finished filming a second series) and Celebrity Squares.
One of Davis’ dreams came true last year, as he finally got to appear in Doctor Who as Porridge, a character who potentially could return in a future episode. He also appeared on the West End on stage for the first time in the Monty Python stage show Spamalot as Patsy, where he sang the solo, “Always look on the bright side of life,” proving beyond doubt that this versatile man can sing as well as act.
As if the last 18 months haven’t been busy enough, earlier this year he founded his own theater company, Reduced Height Theatre Company, which stages theatrical productions cast exclusively with short actors and using reduced height sets — their first production was See How They Run and tickets sold very well.
In addition to all of this, he’s also appeared in numerous pantomimes and this year he’ll be starring in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in Manchester, and when I caught up with him a couple of weeks ago he promised a few Star Wars references. You can also see Davis starring alongside Jim Broadbent in the film Get Santa which opens in the UK during the first week of December.
Any finally, in October he announced what we’d all hoped — he’s returning to Star Wars and will appear in The Force Awakens, which opens on December 18, 2015.
You can hear Warwick talking about the 30th anniversary of Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, The Force Awakens, and much more on a new episode of RADIO 1138 with Mark Newbold and me.