March 2nd, 2012
04:49 PM ET
Ricky Gervais has already made the hapless Karl Pilkington into an international star. So how did Warwick Davis, already known for his work in "Return of the Jedi," "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and the "Harry Potter" films, become the star of Gervais' latest series (playing himself, no less)?
“I called Warwick up and asked if he would mind being kicked in the face for ‘Extras,’" Gervais told CNN. Not long afterward, Gervais read Davis' biography.
"I discovered what an amazing life he’s had and how funny it was, and how Warwick was so funny about it, and Warwick said we should do a show about it. It just suited our sensibilities perfectly."
The result was "Life's Too Short," which currently airs on HBO Sunday nights, after a run last year in the UK.
In the show, Davis is an egotistical hard-on-his-luck actor, doing anything he can to get the next job or make a buck. A perfect example of this was a scene from this past Sunday's episode, where Davis tried to make a young man with a tumor pay £25 for an autograph at a sci-fi convention, just like everyone else.
"Ever since that episode, people stop me in the street for a photo and say, I haven’t got 25 quid, but can I have a photo?" Davis joked.
He said that the scenes on the show about fan conventions "represent that world very well, but the things that Warwick does are not what [I have done]." (In fact, as Davis and Gervais pointed out more than once, the "Warwick Davis" on the show is nothing like the real Warwick Davis.)
But after growing such a large fanbase, because of "Star Wars," "Harry Potter" and the rest, what franchise does Davis want to do next? One of the favorites for British science fiction fanatics (and Americans, as well).
"‘Doctor Who.’ That’s my quest. I just want to play a guest villain. I met the [executive producer Steven Moffat] a few weeks ago, and pitched him the idea. I don’t drink but I think he thought I was drunk. That’s the one remaining thing.”
Of course, no discussion of Davis' career can go without mentioning Ron Howard's late 1980s fantasy film, "Willow." It receives its share of ridicule on the show.
"[Because of] the fact that in the series, no one has seen ‘Willow’ or heard of it," he said, "I get the message from people who feel sorry, saying ‘you know, I have seen ‘Willow!’"
Reaction to "Life's Too Short," in some cases, has been quite critical. Gervais, in particular, took exception to a piece in The Daily Beast, which negatively compared Davis' character with Emmy award winner Peter Dinklage on "Game of Thrones."
“How insulting is that to tell an actor? He compared Warwick to Peter Dinklage. I can see them fighting next!" Gervais said. "How patronizing! Because Peter Dinklage plays positive roles and Warwick Davis is a putz. He can’t see that Warwick Davis is Warwick Davis as well. It’s almost like I took an average height actor and CGI’ed him small, and it was very insulting.”
Davis agreed that such criticism – which also mentioned the multiple jokes in the show where Davis' height was part of the physical comedy – was "patronizing."
"It was a very odd comparison to make. The character I play is a character," he said. "The fact that he does things that are comedic – that’s what we’re doing in this, we’re not making a drama or thriller or anything else. When he talks about the word ‘dwarf’ to describe me instead of ‘actor Warwick Davis'... I strive for that day when it becomes ‘actor Warwick Davis.'"
Gervais went on: "[The show] is about a nasty manipulative person who gets his comeuppance, who happens to be a dwarf. He’s not all those things because he’s a dwarf. He’s all these things, and a dwarf. And it’s so patronizing to suggest that Warwick can’t do physical comedy in case it’s misconstrued as laughing at him."
Regarding specific scenes, Gervais explained, "He falls out of the car. It’s not funny because it’s a dwarf falling over. We’re watching a man fall out of a car that’s way too big for him, and he just said, ‘I’m the Martin Luther King of little people, and I want to be a dignified dwarf around town.’ He gets caught in a cat flap because he gets caught sneaking into his own house."
As for what others in the dwarf community have told Davis, he said they appreciate it: "[They] find that this character doesn’t paint a rosy picture, but paints more of a real picture in a sense.”
As Gervais summed up on his view of things, "Everyone should have the right to play an idiot, to play a villain, to fall over.”
He added that "Davis" the character will continue to get what's coming to him in future episodes.
"'Warwick' is involved with the People of Short Stature Society. He’s annoyed that he’s Vice Chairman. He wants to be Chairman!"
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