From Ewok to Willow to Leprechaun

From Ewok to Willow to Leprechaun
Warwick Davis talks about his roles, horror movies, and being a parent.
Updated: 01-26-2004

Review by Staci Layne Wilson for

Warwick Davis is an actor famous for making "kids" of all ages smile -- whether it's with genuine bliss while watching him portray the lovable dwarf Willow, or with evil glee while watching him dispatch teen after teen in the Leprechaun film franchise.

The diminutive actor's first film role was in 1983 as Wicket, the lead Ewok in Return of the Jedi. The position came about when Davis's grandmother heard a radio announcement calling for people under 4 feet in height to come and audition; she took him, and at 2-foot-11, how could he lose out?

After the success of 1988's Willow, which was written by George Lucas with him in mind, Davis was immediately back in front of the camera. This time for the, er, small screen. He was cast in the BBC classic, The Chronicles of Narnia and then went on to portray the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In The Silver Chair, he played Glimfeather the Owl.

In 2001 Davis played two characters in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: the wizened Professor Flitwick and the creepy Goblin bank teller.

Throughout all of these varied roles, one thing has remained constant in Davis's career: The Leprechaun. Co-starring with a young and pudgy Jennifer Aniston in the first installment, Davis has steered the evil green character from outer space to the hood over the decades. And now, in part 6, he's "Back 2 tha Hood" and mean and greedy as ever.'s Staci Layne Wilson caught up with Davis for a phone interview, connecting sunny southern California to the cold and rainy U.K.

Warwick Davis as "Willow".

Staci Layne Wilson: I saw the DVD, and I thought it was hilarious. But actually my favorite part was the commentary. Do you enjoy doing that?

Warwick Davis: I do, yes. But for Willow it was difficult, because it's 14 years later.

SLW: But for the listener, sometimes that's even more fun. We've got some perspective on your thoughts.

WD: Yes, there is a different perspective on Willow. How it's grown, and become a success. On Back 2 tha Hood it was nice because we could just have a good chat and hopefully people will like it.

SLW: Are you personally pleased with the more high profile roles coming out recently for short actors? There was Bad Santa, The Station Agent, HBO's Carnivale, the soap opera Passions, a recurring role on the Boston Public series, and of course your Leprechaun 6.

WD: The more short actors that are in sort of mainstream television and film, the better. The more we're seen, the more we're likely to be used in things that might not otherwise be considered. That's better for me and all the other actors. I think all of our dream is to be recognized in more everyday roles [such as] dramas, soap operas, and the like.

But that said, I'm not a campaigner for that. I am an actor who enjoys working, and if my work involves me being under prosthetic makeup or inside a furry costume, then so be it. I enjoy performing, and those roles allow me to do that.

I haven't seen the movies you mentioned, but I do really want to see Bad Santa because that was a role I really wanted. I auditioned for it.

SLW: I think you might be happy when you see it, because Tony Cox is excellent as the larcenous elf.

WD: Yeah, I'm thrilled. And when I found out Tony had got it, I went, 'Yeah, it's his role.' When I had read the script, it didn't really roll off my tongue, but I know Tony so well I know that he's perfect and I was thrilled that he'd got it. I hear he steals the show, actually.

SLW: Yes, he steals everything!

WD: I thought it was a wonderful concept, these two crooks. At the same time, it was a great learning experience for me to prepare for the role and to audition and et cetera, because I discovered some things about myself performance-wise, in just getting to the level that I needed to. Auditioning ... you might not succeed every time, but it's also a good thing to do as well. It does move you along in your career.

SLW: I am a horror fan, but I must admit that I didn't realize there were six Leprechaun films out, prior to seeing Back 2 tha Hood. He's really popular, isn't he?

"Leprechaun" box cover featuring Warwick & Jennifer.

WD: Yes, I can't believe it sometimes. The studio making six films shows that there must be fans out there. Not all of them admit that they are! [laughs] Somebody's watching them, and that's the reason they keep making them. As long as there are people who keep watching them and I'm not to decrepit  myself, then we'll continue making them.

SLW: Do you ever get weird comments from fans? Do people recognize you as The Leprechaun on the street?

WD: I get recognized for the variety of different roles I've done in America. But I have been recognized for The Leprechaun which is really bizarre, because of course I look nothing like him.

SLW: You mean you don't really have a green face and a huge, warty nose?

WD: No.

I've actually heard of, say, 18 to 20 year olds who have Leprechaun parties on St. Patrick's Day and watch all of the movies. Next St. Patrick's Day they'll be watching six movies. They'll completely freak out.

But yeah, the Leprechaun is really popular and I actually make a lot of appearances in America. Mostly as a result of Star Wars, but there are many Leprechaun fans coming out of the woodwork. I've been asked to leave phone messages for people, or wish people happy birthday as The Leprechaun, and that kind of stuff. It's really a very popular character in that sense.

SLW: So, everyone is dying to know: What about Chucky Vs. The Leprechaun?

WD: They're making another Chucky movie. I run an agency called Willow Management here in the U.K., and we represent short actors. We did get a call a few weeks ago about another Chucky movie that they're doing. And I thought it was quite ironic that they'd call and I was the one who answered the phone. We'll have to see about a showdown. I think it's really a matter of the studios getting together. Both the franchises are owned by different studios.

SLW: Freddy Vs. Jason was so successful, there could be a compromise.

WD: Yeah, that's right. We shall see what happens.

SLW: In listening to your commentary on the Back 2 tha Hood DVD, I must say I felt a bit sorry for you. The makeup, the pointy shoes, and those stunts don't sound like much fun, actually.

WD: The movies are very, very hard work. It's not glamorous at all. Especially on number 6, it was ever so physical because we'd have a fight sequence pretty much every day. I was getting beaten up, or beating someone else up, or getting shot, or thrown, or something was going on.

It's very hard to find a stunt double for me. They do have a double but where they can, they actually use me because I'm wearing the proper makeup and I am the character in more than one way. It's not just being able to do the voice, it's all about the way he moves and walks, the way he carries himself. There's a lot more to it. A stuntman has to try and replicate all that as well, which is quite difficult to do.

So yeah, on number 6 I would go back to my hotel with bruises and pretty physically drained each night. Then 12 hours later, I was back on set doing exactly the same thing. So fans do get to see The Leprechaun get thrown about, and also inflicting quite a bit of physical punishment on the other characters as well. It's quite good to watch. I actually enjoyed number 6. I do enjoy watching it; it is quite an entertaining film. It's got a good sense of humor, there are some good jokes, comedy, which I think everybody likes to see -- The Leprechaun in funny situations and interacting with other characters. Not killing them, but just interacting with them. I think that's kind fun to see because you're never quite sure if he's going to turn or if he's going to quite like these people and just leave them alone.

SLW: He didn't leave that stoner in the kitchen alone! I must say, the "death by bong" scene was something I'd never seen before.

WD: Yes, that was quite good. I like the way the blood filled the chamber. It is quite interesting. That bong was bizarre; I'd never -- now this is the truth -- I didn't know what one was. I mean, I was not born in the 60s. It's amazing how many of the crew stepped forward and [showed me how it works].

SLW: What's one of your favorite Leprechaun killings that you can remember?

WD: There is a Leprechaun website, Connie's Leprechaun ( site, and she actually has listed all of the killing methods. I'm trying to remember, though ... Let's see. There's a good one on number 6 where I pull somebody's heart out and it's still beating. It's great it's one of the makeup artist's creations. Basically it's this model of a heart. When I first saw it I said, 'That looks great.' He said, 'You wait and see it going.' He ran about four or five tubes through my arms, under my jacket, and out down my trouser legs, and then under the dirt to one side out of the shot. Then he started these compressors up and very soon the heart started beating in my hand and blood started squirting out. It made for a really gruesome effect in the movie.

The bong killing is a good one, because it's original. I like the very different sort of killings you haven't seen before.

I liked cutting the guy in half in number three -- he was a magician; you know, the sawing in half trick the magicians do? Then they join the person back together -- well, I just sawed him in half and there was no joining back together. I pulled the box apart and all you see is these guts and innards hanging out. That one was quite original as well.

SLW: Judging from the DVD commentary, you and the director [Steven Ayromlooi] seemed to get along quite well.

WD: He was a first time director, and he did good. Steve had a real drive for this movie. He came up with the script and he wanted to direct it. When any director works on a Leprechaun movie, they're up against a very, very tight schedule. They're up against a low budget, and often have to make compromises on their original vision. But Steve really stuck to his guns and really wanted to put onscreen what he had in his mind, and what he'd written in the script. The majority of the time, he got what he wanted. He really did put pressure on the studio, and said, 'I want more time, I want this and I want that,' and I think it paid off. It made for a better movie, for all of his enthusiasm and hard work, basically. And that's what is it: it's extremely draining, hard work for a director on one of these films. It's great training.

I think the reason they asked him to do it was because he had done some wonderful shorts that showed real directing prowess and a good style and I think that's what got him the job of helming Leprechaun 6. And it was a good idea, as well. Yes, take him back to the hood, but I thought the idea was quite novel as far as story and development.

SLW: What's next for The Leprechaun? Will he ever haul his pot of gold to the Bahamas and retire?

WD: Who knows where we’ll see The Leprechaun next? There is so much more that he could actually do. I'd like to see another Leprechaun in the movies -- perhaps with somebody who's worse than him. Maybe a relative, or maybe even a female leprechaun.

SLW: Yeah, I can imagine The Leprechaun could use a girlfriend after all these centuries. He's a bit cranky, isn't he?

WD: Yeah. That would be fun, wouldn't it? I'd like to see him perhaps go back to Ireland. Or maybe come face to face with another mythological character. There are many, many other kinds of beasts he could have to confront, or to give him a real sort adversary that might be a match for him.

SLW: Are you a fan of the horror genre?

WD: I'm a parent now; I have young children, so horror is not something that we watch in the house anymore. I used to, though. Growing up as a teenager, I have very fond memories of watching  movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th. Those are the horror movies of my generation. Halloween is probably my favorite horror movie of all time.

SLW: You mentioned earlier that you have your own company?

WD: Yes, it's called Willow Management. We represent short actors. It's I represent almost 100 short actors, under 5 feet.

SLW: Wow! I just missed the mark! I'm 5'1". Darn it all!

WD: Well, we have to be strict. There are a lot of talented people who are 5'1" but we have to draw the line somewhere.

SLW: Oh, man! There goes my shot at stardom. I'm crushed. I have to go now.

WD: OK. Bye, Staci.

Warwick Davis as Professor Flitwick in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone".

For more info on Warwick, visit his personal website.

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