Interview with actor Warwick Davis at Harry Potter Home Entertainment Celebration

An interview with actor Warwick Davis

Conducted 11/11/11 at 11:15 a.m. EST by Eric Scull

MN: Already there are pictures surfacing on Twitter of you… it looks like you’re rehearsing something in the Wizarding World?

WD: Oh really? Wow, it gets out there doesn’t it? Who are these spies?! Yes indeed. We’re preparing for the celebrations tomorrow evening (Saturday and Sunday) really to mark the release of Deathly Hallows – Part 2 on Blu-ray and DVD. But we’re also doing it to celebrate 10 years of Harry Potter. We celebrate the anniversary of the first film on the 18th of November. So I’ve been preparing my frog choir. Which, it’s always nice to be asked to come and do this. And the Wizarding World do make rather a spectacular event that it’s lovely to be a part of.

MN: Have you been here, and in the park for very long?

WD: I’ve been here for a few days now. Myself and my family have been doing the whole of the Islands of Adventure including the Wizarding World. It’s a little difficult for me in the Wizarding World, to be honest. It’s always so busy and, once I get spotted, I can’t get anywhere! But we’ve done the rest of the Universal Parks and most of central Florida.

MN: People have been celebrating the end of Harry Potter for roughly four years now. Ever since the last book, it’s all come to a slow close. Can Harry Potter ever end, and is this the end?

WD: I mean, if you look at something like Star Wars, some of the films have already celebrated 30 years, and 2013 is the anniversary of Return of the Jedi. That’s thirty years, where we’re just coming up to 10 with Harry Potter. It’s such a generational thing as well, you know. It’s something that people who have grown up with it now will go on to have kids and then be able to say, “This is what I grew up watching or reading.” They hand it on to the next generation of youngsters. And I think Harry Potter will continue to be around for many decades to come, I’m sure. It’s a classic piece of literature and I certainly think that, as filmmakers, we’ve created some classic films that have tried to better themselves every time. And they’re entertaining, very watchable movies, aren’t they?

MN: How does it feel to be such a part of many iconic films, large series like Star Wars and Harry Potter…?

WD: I’m really lucky if I look back over my career to think of the things I’ve been in, where I started. If you start in a film like Return of the Jedi, it’s difficult to follow that. But then I’ve been so lucky to go on and be part of these amazing franchises and the Harry Potter series just was so great. And when we started on the first film, I was delighted to be cast as Professor Flitwick and the Goblin bank teller. But then, at that point we didn’t know that we were going to go on to make any more movies. I don’t think there were any more books at that point. And then when another book came we thought, “Oh, we could do this as a movie.” But we never took it for granted. As an actor, A) you wondered whether or not they were going to make a movie, but secondly B) whether your character would indeed make the transition from book to screenplay. Some of the characters didn’t. So it was nice to be part of every one of the eight films.

MN: That they always did find a role for you.

WD: Yeah. And it’s just so nice, was such a nice group to work with. And a lovely team and I’m so proud to be a part of it. And when you come to somewhere like the Wizarding World for this celebration, you realize the impact that the films have made. As an actor you don’t always appreciate that. You do at the premieres, but when you come here you realize that people come from all over the world to come and visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and celebrate their love of the films and books and characters. It’s terrific. And it’s exciting when you go into the shops and you find, Professor Flitwick’s wand now, is part of the things that you can buy…

MN: They’ve got his wand in the shop?

WD: Well they haven’t got them here, yet! I was a bit disappointed. I’ve seen them in England, but they haven’t made it over here yet. I thought Ollivander’s here would be stocked up, but… when they DO stock them here I’m gonna make sure they put them on the lower shelves. The last thing you want is Professor Flitwick’s wand on a high shelf.

MN: That would be cruel!

WD: It’s not gonna happen. I’m gonna make sure they stock it nice and low.

MN: So Flitwick and Griphook, speaking of the two “main” characters you play on Potter.

WD: Yes.

MN: Different characters…

WD: Yes.

MN: How are they similar and how are they not?

WD: Well, the only similarity between them is that they share my physical structure. I made a conscious effort, obviously to play them very differently. They’re very different types of characters, one is a goblin and one is part of the faculty at Hogwarts…

MN: Was it fun getting to diversify?

WD: Yeah it was lovely; what a lovely opportunity. Fortunately because of the four-hour makeup process, for each character, I didn’t have to step out of one and step into the other character’s shoes within the same day. But sometimes the schedule was that I was Flitwick one day and Griphook the next. And that’s a fascinating thing to be able to do. But they are both very different. I consciously… Griphook has a very different walk, a different stance, he talks very differently. Obviously the rhythms of the dialogue are different anyway, but then the voice… everything is different. And I get a great compliment from people when they watch the movie and say, “Oh I didn’t realize you were Griphook as well.” That, to me, is job done, as it were.

Griphook was a great character to play. All through the movies I’ve played Professor Flitwick and other goblins, but they’ve been in the films and often been part of the light relief, and comic moments. Which it’s lovely to have, but finally, with Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Griphook for me was a chance to really have a character who makes a difference to the story and the plot. He has some bearing on what our heroes do. The character has a journey, an A to B point – B being DEAD… should be an “A to D” point, actually. A to dead…

But it is really rewarding and David Yates was excited that I was going to be playing the character, and we both had a lot of fun bringing him to screen. From the first scene with Harry, through to the sneaking into Gringotts and all that stuff. It was great to film, and just a great experience to be working closely with David on all of that.

MN: It’s quite a big part of the book as well. The break-in at Gringotts bank? That’s what’s sacred!

WD: It’s exciting isn’t it, that bit? And it was great to film it all. Just for me. I’m a fan of the books and stuff. What was exciting about working on these films was getting to DO the things you read about. I’m sure all the fans out there who’ve read the books and stuff. They dream of going to Hogwarts. And that’s a lovely experience that I’ve had throughout the ten years… But then, on top of that, something like, to get to go under the Invisibility Cloak. For me, that was like, “This is exciting! I’m now under an Invisibility Cloak.” To get to witness that moment where Voldemort says, “Harry Potter is dead,” in the courtyard at Hogwarts. To me, I was standing there, thinking, “Wow, this is a bit like Forrest Gump, where he’s at those moments in history that we’ve all read about… and he’s there.” It’s this moment that’s sort of iconic and you’ve read about, and I’m standing there seeing it happen. It was ever-so-odd, it was definitely a Forrest Gump moment.

MN: About that scene being filmed, on the Maximum Movie Mode of the latest film; Maximum Movie Mode is a great presentation, too…

WD: Oh, yeah.

MN: They were talking about Ralph Fiennes and how – on those days of filming the courtyard scene – he was putting people on edge. Obviously he looks, like Voldemort, but that he could look at… anybody. At any time.

WD: Every take was different with Ralph. It was fascinating to watch him as an actor. He’d be out there, and it was a very cold British day. It really was exactly right for the mood of the film. And he never did the same thing twice during a take, so you were always on edge. Who he was going to look at, what he was going to do. It was pretty dramatic being there, and even though it’s a huge open space (and there are obviously cameras around and stuff) I was totally drawn in by it. And then when you see it on the screen, it’s really very moving and very frightening at the same time as well. He’s an amazing actor.

Although, however amazing he is, he’s not completely flawless! I remember filming in Malfoy Manor (when Griphook is dead, and is laying in the blood). There was a lot of blood there… I thought, “This is a Harry Potter movie!” It felt like we were making a slasher/horror. I think I laid there in blood for five hours one day, dead.

But as I’m laying there, I’m looking through a crack in my eye, watching the scene unfold. I’m thinking, “Wow this is amazing, isn’t it?” It’s a scene of destruction, with the Goblins that have been slaughtered by Voldemort. And I can see Ralph walking through them, doing his line. And during one particular take, I was watching and he started strolling through, very dramatic, and all of a sudden he slipped. It was just like somebody slipping on a banana skin, because he doesn’t wear shoes and then… slipping on all the blood, it just killed it for me. It was very funny.

MN: Also on the DVD, there’s this feature “The Goblins of Gringotts.”

WD: That’s a good feature. I’m glad you mentioned that. It’s a good feature. It’s fun. They shot that, obviously, while we were making the films… it’s very good insight into what goes into this. I think, when you watch the sequence in the film, you don’t realize the sheer scale of it. And the amount of man-hours that have gone into not only preparing the make-ups; casting the make-ups; painting them all; they had to have several sets of these make-ups. You don’t realize. And that’s a great example of the detail that was present in all of the sequences in all of the movies. There was no detail too small.

And that’s why I think it’s terrific that they’re indoors at the Warner Bros. Studios, London. For people to actually be able to come in and be able to experience the making of Harry Potter and tour the sets, and really get up-close with the work you often don’t see in the screen. But that’s a great feature on the DVD, actually. My favorite, obviously, because I’m in it – a lot. (Laughs)