February 3, 1970
Surrey, England, GB
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The most successful little person actor in the history of film, Warwick Davis enjoyed an amazing career in the fantasy genre. The 11-year-old's featured role in "Return of the Jedi" (1983) as Wicket the Ewok led not only to him reprising the character for several children's TV movies, but also work in "Labyrinth" (1986) and a starring role without extensive make-up or costumes in "Willow" (1988). Associations with two very different but successful franchises would ensure Davis's income and status as a working actor: the titular gleefully evil "Leprechaun" (1993) and all its straight-to-video sequels, as well as Hogwarts professor Filius Flitwick in every big-budget installment of the "Harry Potter" series. Proving he had considerable comedic chops on the Ricky Gervais hit series "Extras" (BBC Two, 2005-07) led the esteemed comedian to write the BBC comedy pilot "Life's Too Short" for Davis in 2010, the same year the actor published his autobiography. Although he achieved most of his success in fantasy and genre projects, Davis managed to maintain his dignity as well as bringing enormous enthusiasm and likeability to every character he embodied.
Born Feb. 3, 1970 in Surrey, England, Warwick Ashley Davis suffered from a rare genetic condition called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital (SED) which caused his dwarfism. He was attending the City of London Freemen's School when his grandmother heard an advertisement on the radio calling for people under four feet tall to appear in the final installment of the "Star Wars" trilogy at that time, "Return of the Jedi" (1983). A huge fan of the franchise, the two-feet, 11-inch-tall 11-year-old successfully auditioned, earning an extra role as an unnamed Ewok. When R2-D2 actor Kenny Baker, who was originally slotted to play Wicket, the lead Ewok, fell ill, Davis was given the part by George Lucas. Charming his fellow castmates - particularly Carrie Fisher - and impressing the filmmakers with his dedication, Davis was a driving force in the popularity of his character, even though some fans disliked the Ewoks on principle. The young actor even teamed up with the film's first assistant director, David Tomblin, to make a short film, "Return of the Ewok," about his experiences. The obscurity of the unreleased, unfinished film would add to its mystique with hardcore "Star Wars" fans.
The Force was with "Jedi" at the box office, and its worldwide success as well as the popularity of the Ewoks with younger fans allowed Davis to reprise Wicket in two television movies, "The Ewok Adventure" (ABC, 1984) and "Ewoks: The Battle for Endor" (ABC, 1985), but the projects appealed to few viewers past puberty. Davis played a goblin in the Jennifer Connelly/David Bowie fantasy "Labyrinth" (1986), but as with "Jedi," his extensive costume hid his features. That would change with his next film, which was written expressly for him to star without make-up or effects: "Willow" (1988). Standing three-foot, six-inches at full growth, Davis starred as the titular would-be sorcerer who is tasked with protecting a baby from an evil sorceress. Co-starring Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley, directed by Ron Howard and co-written/produced by George Lucas, the film boasted impressive special effects for the time as well as the revolutionary idea of casting a little person as the lead. Although "Willow" received a star-studded roll-out - including a royal premiere attended by Prince Charles and Princess Diana - critics and audiences failed to fall under its spell. Still, the movie earned two Oscar nominations and an impressive afterlife as a cult favorite and touchstone of a certain generation. Only 17 when the movie was filmed, Davis made the most of the experience, earning a Saturn Award nomination for his role as well as meeting his future wife, Samantha Davis, who was one of the extras in Willow's village. The two married in 1991. Sadly, their first son died shortly after his Sept. 1991 birth, but they would eventually happily welcome a daughter and son, who were both dwarves.
Davis quickly lensed memorable roles in the BBC "Narnia" adaptations "Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (1989) as the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep and "The Silver Chair" (1990) as the owl Glimfeather. In 1993, he helped create an enduring horror villain, the darkly comic "Leprechaun" who was quick to murder anyone messing with his gold. Most notable for a pre-fame starring appearance by Jennifer Aniston, the film itself was reviled by critics, and yet it became a frighteningly successful sleeper hit, spawning one of the most unlikely horror franchises of the modern era. Only the original film and its 1994 sequel opened in theaters, while the subsequent offerings went direct-to-video: "Leprechaun 3" (1995), "Leprechaun 4: In Space" (1997), "Leprechaun in the Hood" (2000) and "Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood" (2003).
In 1995, Davis and his father-in-law Peter Burroughs (also a dwarf actor) founded Willow Management, a talent agency specializing in representing little people actors. Davis reunited with George Lucas with the "Star Wars" prequel "The Phantom Menace" (1999), in which he played three roles, including Yoda during his walking scenes. Fantasy was Davis's element, and he essayed the diminutive Charms master Professor Filius Flitwick in the worldwide smash "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001). He would reprise Flitwick or a similar character for the sequels "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (2002), "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004), "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2005), "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (2007), "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (2009) and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" (Part 1: 2010, Part 2: 2011).
In 2005, Davis played the body of Marvin the Paranoid Android in the half-baked Douglas Adams adaptation, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," but he showed his flair for comedy by appearing with Daniel Radcliffe as satirical versions of themselves on the Ricky Gervais hit series, "Extras" (BBC Two, 2005-07) which ended with Davis getting kicked in the face. He returned to Narnia as the dwarf Nikabrik in "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" (2008) and made a guest appearance on the wizardry series "Merlin" (BBC One, 2008- ). Quoting Yoda for its title and tapping George Lucas for a foreword, Davis published his autobiography Size Matters Not: The Extraordinary Life and Career of Warwick Davis in 2010. Friends ever since Davis's appearance on "Extras," Gervais announced in 2010 that he and writing partner Stephen Merchant were developing a BBC pilot for the actor called "Life's Too Short," a satirical take on Davis's life in the vein of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ).
Jack The Giant SlayerOld Hamm
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2Griphook/Professor Filius Flitwick
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceProfessor Filius Flitwick
Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixFilius Flitwick
Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsProfessor Flitwick
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneProfessor Flitwick
Leprechaun 2The Leprechaun
Return of the JediWicket