How a sci-fi icon became Gervais' latest TV star
March 2nd, 2012
04:49 PM ET

How a sci-fi icon became Gervais' latest TV star

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!"

soundoff (25 Responses)
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    September 13, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Hane

    I am actually rlleay worried about Life's too short. I hope I am wrong about it but it does seem very centered around Warwick's height. As a dwarf I know people such as myself will be the ones to cop the abuse from it the next day whilst Gervais and Warwick can get on with it.Very true about Seven Dwarfs. If they want to get rid of the preconceptions they should look at what they are doing first.At least Jasmine and her mam are doing it in the right way

    March 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Biscuit

    I admired the Office ... but this program misses the mark by a long way. Each character in the Office was shown with flaws and generated their own pathos and ridicule in equal measure. The message in this series is very confused. Warwick seems to be playing a parody of his own life, but the humor and empathy is missing. Basically, he's shown as a nasty little man and this is used to justify the abuse he receives from various A list celebrities. Now, Warwick seems to have indeed set up his own "support group" for little people in real life – so is his life now a parody of the program? The wit, the incisive social commentary, indeed the actual comedy is lacking – Merchant and Gervais seem to have found a willing stooge in Warwick, but this whole series leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth. This is exploitation of the disabled – paying Davis to receive this kind of treatment does not justify the behavior exhibited or the impact it seems to have already had on the wider "short" community. It just further marginalises LPs from wider society and from the comments posted the joke was most definitely missed in the UK.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nighthhaaawk

    I think the person laughing the most is Warick Davis...all the way to the bank! – Good for him!

    March 5, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  7. Rick

    I have not seen "Lifes too Short" but I have watched "An Idiot Abroad" and lemme tell you, if it's anything like "An Idiot Abroad" it MUST be hilarious.

    March 5, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. kd

    1: I liked WILLOW

    2: If you've ever seen 'THE OFFICE' or 'EXTRAS' then you know that everybody gets their moment to be put in his/her place in Gervais's shows. I haven't seen this show yet but I'm guessing the same formula is at play here. Guess I can't see a problem with that.

    March 5, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  9. Another View

    I am from the dwarf community. I have a sense of humour. It's simple. Despite the references to many people within the dwarf community not liking this comedy there are also many that do, only we don't see it necessary to continually bombard message threads with that fact. As a couple of people have already openly mentioned the RGA here as will I – it is an association which has members only willing to accept and respect those who share their own personal opinions, dare you have an opinion of your own that you are willing to share then prepare to be shunned and I think the agression shown on this page can be seen as proof of that. So you don't like the programme? Don't watch it. I don't particularly like the childish hate campaign for this programme that has been set up – am I spending all my time searching for related links so I can criticise it? No, I choose to spend my time undoing the damage that these protestors are doing in making society believe that just because I am little, I am also opinionated, agressive, arrogant, ignorant and outright rude! It is not the programme setting the dwarf community back 40 years, it is the dwarf community (or more specifically, the small minded critics members of it) so thank you, really, my son who has already received abuse directly related to the view of an RGA member who refuses to accept a different opinion is a valid one, is grateful to you

    March 4, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reply to another view

      Whilst I respect your point of view, you claim not to search for sites to give an opinion but you have found this site and made your opinion clear. The true consequences of such programmes doesn't becomes apparent until an lp becomes employed – if you need hard evidence of this I suggest you take a look at the statics done by Dr Tom Shakespeare's research project a few years ago.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Another View

      I didn't search for this – it was once again plastered all over facebook bvegging people not to watch it, to demand that it is taken off the air blah blah blah so I followed the link. Yes, I did leave my opinion as I am fed up of other members of the lp community thinking they have a right to speak on behalf of the lp community when in fact not all the lp community share their view. As a long standing member of the RGA (until of course I was ousted for having my own mind) and have therefore read much of Dr Shakespeare's (and others) research however I still do not see that as reason for the above comments which personally criticise others for holding a difference of opinion. As for the full consequences, I am more concerned with the current consequences suffered by my own son at the hands of people who *should* be there to support him. Personally I have had mixed reactions as a consequence of people watching the show but of course I am willing to admit it because I don't have a cause which can be harmed by admitting I was wrong......

      March 5, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. frankenstein

    I bet he's hung like a horse, skip the tv show and get into adult films dude...who wouldn't want to see willow and mad mardigan run a train on elora dannon?

    March 4, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. My View

    I am From the Dwarf community. It's simple, I don't appreciate it. Despite what the lead actor might imply in this article. Maybe some of the fiction is becoming a reality as a new group has been set up in the UK by Davis. The Martin Luther King of little people indeed. Little People UK was recently established after this comedy was broadcast in the UK. The Restricted Growth Association has existed for 40 years. It is q clear that the membership of the RGA have not all been happy with this comedy. Well let's just set up another group that may just back it up...

    March 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Keith

    Not funny. Anyone in the dwarf community who likes this comedy is either: acting in it, star struck, pals with Davis and other actors. Or perhaps what is even more revealing is the 'fictional' character may not be as fictional as everyone thinks. After all he runs an agency in the UK, so from such a small community of dwarves you are either employed by him or know someone who is. What a shame that this comedy is constantly justified and defended by all involved. Wake up people it's a 21st century freak show. Fans of Gervais may defend this in an aggressive way, and who wouldn't to justify their own prejudice. Shame that we as a public, including celebrities involved have been sucked in by previous comic geniuses! Wouldn't it be great if they just admitted that they got it wrong this time around.

    March 3, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Carole

    As a small person it always concerns me how the general public perceives a person of restricted growth after watching such portrayal, but not just the general public – professionals, the education system and employers. I think it naive to believe it doesn't have impact.

    To a previous remark – I think it should be mentioned, the chances of a couple having a baby with a condition of dwarfism is spontaneous – that is, it can happen to any couple just as Downs Symdrome. I was born into an exceptionally tall family – parent's and older siblings. So I consider how such portrayal impacts, not only the person of restricted growth, but also the family whilst the family at the same time is fighting for equal opportunities for the child.

    March 3, 2012 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ann Simpson

    I and many other people who have dwarfism think the programme Lifes too Short was absolutely awful. Infact it takes me back 40 plus years when the Restricted Growth Association was formed, and members were trying to dispel this type of portrayal. We had made great strides, then this programme appears. Sadly I recently heard a young mother of a baby who has dwafism was having coffee and overheard some youths saying how they wish they could find a dwarf to "bowl" A particular episode showed a young man with dwarfism being bowled at skittles. Apart from it not being funny, it could have resulted in serious spinal problems. Warwick Davis missed a great opportunity.

    March 3, 2012 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
  15. Sokman

    Willow was a kick a$$ flick. The Brownies were great, & they were much smaller than Davis.

    March 2, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  16. dixiegirl

    Whenever I see a midgit, I laugh.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Kristina Gray

    Just to put he record straight, there are plenty within the dwarf community in the UK who are not happy at all with this comedy! People old and young within this community who have been horrified by this programme and what it presents.

    All the PR spin around the programme is cleverly trying to cover up, what to many has been an unhelpful portrayal of people with dwarfism. To say the jokes are not at height is simply not true. Listen to the script and the insults that inside. Do you honestly expect me and others to believe that if Warwick Davis was averaged height that this script would still work? References such as 'evil toilet dwarf' and 'let's stick the midget in the bin' surely couldn't be applied to an averaged height actor.

    Thankfully the Britosh press hammered this comedy for what it is. Exploitative. The article written in The daily Beast summed it up well for me and many others. Don't be fooled by the spin!

    March 2, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hand

      So Warwick Davis and little people should be treated differently by Gervais than anyone else? I think Gervais' point is they are making fun a character that so happens to be of small stature not a person of small stature being made fun of. There is a difference. Gervais even said the scene of Davis falling out of a car is of a man that insists on a car that is too big for him. It is so Universal. If you cant see his point, then for all our sakes, never watch anything by Gervais.
      Especially don't watch the Golden Globes and what he did to Johnny Depp.Did you complain then

      March 4, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Horrified? Really? Overreact much, do you?

      March 5, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  18. Jason McCann

    "Already known for his work in "Return of the Jedi," "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and the "Harry Potter" films"

    Seriously?! WILLOW? HELLO?

    March 2, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason's Inner Voice

      Oh My God!!!! Stop the presses! CNN left out one of his credits! Horrible, shoddy journalism!

      March 4, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |

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