Warwick Davis as Griphook in "Deathly Hallows."
Warwick Davis, in Flitwick's full makeup and wardrobe, wheels in on a mini, motorized chariot to chat with us during our set visit for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Earlier this year, he released his autobiography, "Size Matters Not," which recounts his last 30 years of acting. With his career very much at the forefront of his mind and a cheery disposition, he shared with us the details of spending hours in the makeup chair, his thoughts on a Willow sequel, and which of his Potter characters (Flitwick or Griphook), he'd rather hang out with.
Q. How do you like playing the more villainous Griphook, as compared to the more virtuous Flitwick?
Davis: Griphook's such a gift of a character. Flitwick is a lovely character to play, but he's never really had any particular bearing on the plots of the films. As Flitwick, I'm light relief -- they'll grab Flitwick and he'll do something amusing…whereas Griphook has been quite an integral part of the plot. He's a very interesting character, and you don't know whether you trust him or not. Then, he does indeed get his comeuppance.
Q. Over the course of the series, there was a change in the Flitwick character…what caused that shift?
Davis: The third script was written and there was nothing for Professor Flitwick in it. Of course I was sad, but they came and phoned me up and said, 'We're sorry you're not in the script, but we'd really like to have you as part of the film. We decided that this is how we'll design [the] character. [He] will essentially be a choir conductor.' I liked to think of him as the "professor of magical music." So he was indeed that for Number 3. I enjoyed playing the old Flitwick, because he's an eccentric teacher. He's obviously a lot older, so I enjoyed finding [that] age in him. He loved to gesticulate a lot, and to explain stuff, which is [the way] a science teacher of mine was like when I went to public school.
Q. What does it entail to get into makeup for each character?
Davis: For Flitwick, it takes about three to three and a half hours. For Griphook, it takes about four hours. Griphook's makeup is much heavier because of the larger nose and ears, and I feel much more contained within that. This is my real neck, whereas Griphook's comes all the way down. I can't hear very well in that makeup, and then I have the contact lenses and the dentures as well. It's kind of as far from me as you could possibly get. Flitwick's makeup is a little easier to wear, and it's actually my lips and my eyes, but, I still have dentures for [that] character as well.
Q. You've spent a lot of time in the makeup chair, not just for Harry Potter, but throughout your career. What's it like working so closely with the makeup crew?
Davis: What's wonderful about the makeup effects crew here is that [they] enable me to play two different characters in the same film. Without these guys, for all the torture they put me through, and however much I hate them, without them, I couldn't do what I do. It's sort of one of those love-hate relationships…When you see it on film, it's totally convincing and totally brilliant…I've worked with Nick Dudman, who's the supervisor [and] applies the makeup for Griphook, ever since I started back in 1981 on Star Wars.
Q. Which character do you personally prefer: Flitwick or Griphook?
Davis: That's a difficult question. Griphook's such a more involved character. He's a sneaky character. He's essentially a villain, which is more fun [to play]. They're opposite ends of the scale. What you do as an actor is, you find a little seed of you, and that becomes the start of the character. You have a connection and a fondness with all of [it], so to choose one is really hard work. Flitwick, if it was somebody I'd want to hang out with. I'll have a beer with Flitwick. Not that we drink, ever. Butterbeer.
Q. What are your thoughts on revisiting a character like Willow?
Davis: I did speak to George [Lucas] about this. It's one of the most frequently asked questions I get from fans: Will there be a Willow 2? I said to George, "Do you know people would love to see another Willow?" Ron [Howard] said, "If we ever did, we'd have to recast because you're too old!" (Laughs) He's got a very dry sense of humor. What a great thing it would be to revisit it because, personally as an actor, I'm a lot older and a lot wiser now. I know a lot more about acting than I did then. It'd be great to have another stab at it and at the same time explore the character – where is he now? Is he a better sorcerer than he was? I think it's a world that was established enough that you could easily visit it again and see more of it. So never say never. I'd be up for it.
Q. Do you feel pressured in your Harry Potter roles because of the huge fanbase?
Davis: Working on these films, you do feel the enormity of it. As an actor, at the sharp end, you feel a huge weight behind you. What's especially daunting about Potter for me is that 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. You think to yourself, this is what I'd like to do, but I'm sure this [other thing] is probably a little bit closer to what's in people's minds…so you find that balance.
Q. What do you think sets these films apart from other fantasy franchises?
Davis: Although we do use the tools of CGI to enhance everything, a lot of it is actually here. Some people are surprised. There is actually a Great Hall, and to all intents and purposes, it's complete – apart from the enchanted ceiling. They haven't quite figured that out yet. Out on the courtyard, you look around you and you're in that three dimensional space… They're not leaving quite so much to the imagination. Working on the Star Wars prequel, you walk on to a set and it is only a little piece of a wall and the rest is a green screen. So, for actors, it's a beautiful experience working on Harry Potter because you are actually there.
Q. How would you describe the atmosphere on set for a series this long?
Davis: We've all been together, most people, close to 10 years now. It really is like going back to school each time we come back for another movie. We've had some holidays and we're back for a new term. Some of the characters have got new hairdos, which is what always happens at back-to-school day. Some have a slightly new uniform, some people have left, and there are new people as well. It's very much a family atmosphere here.
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