Sunday , May 26 2024
Credit: Pat Cuadros

Report from Nightmare Weekend: Actor Warwick Davis on Prosthetics, Coconut-Clapping, and the Bright Side of Life

Warwick Davis (Willow, Star Wars, Leprechaun) greeted fans in Richmond, Virginia, at Nightmare Weekend, GalaxyCon’s first horror comic con. He held an interesting panel discussion on the main stage with moderator Kid Cadet about prosthetics, his friendships, and stage work.

On Film

A versatile actor who’s worn various costumes, prosthetics and makeup since the 1980s, Davis mentioned one particular drawback. Certain types of prosthetics and makeup aren’t friendly to mealtimes because of how they’re applied. Instead of eating the chicken and corn on the cob during one project’s breaks, he had to drink shakes or eat very little.

Otherwise “you’ll get the grease all under the makeup, which is often glued around into your lips. You kind of lose weight doing these productions,” he said.

Believe it or not, Davis wouldn’t call himself a horror fan. “Now I wouldn’t watch one. Too scary! I think when you have kids is when you see horror slightly differently.”

As for his favorite movies, those include The Muppet Christmas Carol and comedies Vegas Vacation and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Davis is a big fan of John Candy, Steve Martin and Chevy Chase.

On Friendship

Photo of Warwick Davis answering a question from moderator Kid Cadet
Warwick Davis and moderator Kid Cadet (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

Davis has been friends with quite a few well-known actors, including the late Michael Gambon (Harry Potter, Fortitude), whose stories he always enjoyed. “Michael would be chatting about theater. He’d talk about people like John and Laurence. Then you’d realize he was talking about John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier.”

Another dear friend is Val Kilmer (Top Gun: Maverick), who keeps busy with art projects in Los Angeles. Davis said, “If you ever go to his house, you leave with loads of stuff you didn’t turn up with! As you’re leaving, he’s going, take this, take this. He’s framed many pieces of art that he’s done, bits of metal work he’s made. I went home and my suitcase was so overweight.” 

On Acting on Stage

One of Davis’ favorite West End productions was Spamalot, where he played Patsy, King Arthur’s servant. “The main skill that you need is to be able to clap coconuts to sound like a horse. Forget about the singing. It’s all about the coconuts and getting the rhythm exactly right.”

When asked if he ever gets nervous as an actor, Davis said, “I’m normally most nervous when I’m doing a play or a show.”

Taking Spamalot as an example: In rehearsals, whenever a tricky lyric in “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” was coming, he felt nervous about remembering it. “I’d be like, oh, God, here it comes! As we got to that moment, it would kind of come out. I couldn’t remember it mentally but I’d be able to do it. As soon as I learned how to relax, it would all be fine.”

Photo of Warwick Davis looking into the audience
Warwick Davis (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

Eventually, he also relied the acronym LSD to remember it. “Laugh, sing, dance. I used to say laugh, dance, sing. Then the musical director said, ‘No, it’s LSD. You’ll never forget it!'”

On Challenges for Short People

In 2014, Davis formed the Reduced Height Theatre Company for short actors. As a producer and actor with the company, he toured the U.K. with a production of the farce See How They Run. He made a specific change to accommodate actor heights and to shift the show’s focus.

“I reduced the scale of the set so that when I was stood there with the cast, I would look average height. None of the comedy was about us being short. It was purely about the performances and the comedic script.”

In the day-to-day, Davis said there are a lot of challenges for short people that we don’t think about. They include needing a stepstool to reach a buffet table or a bathroom sink, and adjustments to heavy hotel doors so that they are easier to open. He often uses a Segway to get around and help him reach items, too.

In spite of these obstacles, Davis maintains an optimistic outlook. “These challenges sort of make us who are. Don’t they? Without them, we wouldn’t be the same person. It makes you more resilient, more persistent.”

Sometimes, Davis asks whoever is nearby to help him and usually that person is happy to provide assistance. “If you ask somebody, ‘Would you mind giving me a hand?,’ that’ll often make them feel good about themselves. And in turn when they’re helping us, I feel better as well.”

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is Pop Culture Editor for Blogcritics Magazine. She frequently covers TV, film and theater. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi and Brent Spiner. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

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