A Weekend With Warwick Davis!
Thanks to Ben Stevens from the Sci Fi Expo, Darin Smith and I had the great pleasure of hosting Warwick Davis, his family, and business partners around Houston! They were in town for a convention on June 28th. Now before I go on, I have to tell you that Warwick said that he likes to get on the net after conventions and see what people report back about him. Knowing that, I'll tell you I'll report back everything as best as I can remember and try not to twist it around too much. :) Oh, and HOWDY WARWICK! Good to know you're lurking out there!
Darin, my wife, and I picked up Warwick, his wife Samantha, his baby Annabelle, and his friends Steve and Neil at their hotel Saturday morning. We all loaded up in two cars and were going to head to Space Center Houston (NASA). Warwick asked if we could first stop by an electronics store to see if he could find a digital camera he had been looking for. Sounded great to me since I forgot my camera and it would be easy to upload pictures to the site from his camera. :) So we started searching around for a store. The Davis clan was riding with me while everyone else was in the other car.
I know what one of your first questions is. "Did you talk to him about the prequels?" Well, it's usually my policy not to talk about the Star Wars movies with the actors unless they bring it up. It's simply a matter of being polite since they are going to be blasted by Star Wars the entire weekend they are in town anyway. I had also talked to Marc Hedlund (from the Official Web Site) earlier in the week and promised him that I wouldn't ask Warwick about the prequels. "Sure you won't," he said with a smiley face, "can I get that in writing?" Oy! No respect. :) Plus, there's only so many times they can say "I'm not allowed to talk about that" before they might start getting ticked off at you. So as far as I was concerned, it was a taboo subject. But not long after we started driving, Warwick says, "So you're one of the guys that runs that Star Wars web site, TheForce.Net, right?" It kind of threw me off because I didn't think he'd want to talk about that stuff. I said to him, "Uh, yeah!" He replied with a huge grin on his face, "Well, I guess I'm riding with the enemy then!" We both laughed and I said, "It's OK. I promised that I wouldn't ask you anything about the prequels." He said, "That's OK. If I told you I'd have to kill you anyway." :)
He was able to tell me a few things while we drove around. He said Tunisia was very hot, as you would expect. They did have air conditioning, but it was in the tents, so it only got as cool as a tent could. Warwick said that they would leave the hotel in the nearby town at 4 a.m. then try to get done filming by 3 p.m., the hottest part of the day. However, they rarely left at that time since things would run long. The actors would stay in the shade of the sets whenever they weren't filming. The camera crews had little coverings that shaded the equipment (as you may have seen in the pictures from the set). I asked him about the snakes there. He told me that they dug a trench around the sets and tents, and a guy would go around and pick up the snakes and spiders that would fall in. Warwick said that he was a little worried about going in the tents to change because he never knew what might have crawled in overnight. When Kenny Baker would come in and take a nap on the couch, he'd ask him, "How can you sleep on that? What if something crawled in it?" It didn't seem to phase Kenny. Warwick said he thought about playing a trick on Kenny, but never did. I suggested that he take a rubber snake with him if they ever went back to Tunisia. :)
As Warwick ran into several stores looking for his camera, I talked with his wife Samantha as Annabelle chewed on Duplo blocks and a Gromit toy. She told me that they saw a report on the local news the night before. Ron Howard was in town filming a movie. If you'll remember, Warwick filmed Willow with Howard. She said that if we could find out where they were filming, we could go over and meet Ron Howard.
We jumped on Darin's cel phone and tried to call the TV station, but had no luck. Warwick tried calling the local paper, but had no luck. So we didn't get to meet Ron. :( Bummer, eh? Warwick didn't have any luck finding his camera, so we moved on.
We then stopped to get a bite to eat before we hit NASA. We took them to get gen-yoo-ine Texas bar-b-que! They all seemed to enjoy it. Warwick told us about the technical side of shooting in Tunisia. He said that on top of the camera, ILM put a little device that would record the angle and direction that the camera was pointed in. That would help them in referencing when they added the CG characters later. After scenes were shot, ILM guys would run out with a big reflective sheet on top of a pole. They would stand in front of the camera and turn it around. That would then tell them exactly what direction the lighting from the sun was coming from. They'd also run around with cardboard cutouts of the CG characters. He also confirmed that they shot all the CG scenes twice. One with reference actors, one without. This gives ILM more freedom with how to add the CG in later.
I mentioned that I thought it was cool that he took the time to learn the technical side of filming. He was probably one of the few actors there who could comprehend what they were doing. He said that he really loves that stuff and enjoys learning about it. Warwick definitely is computer saavy. He carrys a laptop with him on trips to surf the net and do work. Warwick says he likes to surf the newsgroups and see what's being said about him and the films. He particularly enjoys the posts suggesting that he'll be in Lord of the Rings. (BTW, he has had no word on that at all.) So if you're on RASSM, Wicket is watching! :) He's also working with Brian Linder to build his official web site at www.warwickdavis.com. It's cool to see an actor actually doing the coding on their official web site and take an active role in it's creation. That site should be up and running in the near future, BTW. Warwick has some REALLY cool plans for it. You're going to love it.
After we were done eating, we got ready to pay the bill. Usually when Darin and I meet the actors, we pay for their meal for them. But Warwick and his wife came to us and said, "Please let us get the bill for you." Wow!! He was buying for us?! It was just a simple gesture on his part, but we really really appreciated it.
We then went on to NASA. We had complimentary tickets thanks to their PR department. It was a lot of fun, but a bit crowded. I thought a bunch of people might come up to Warwick, but nobody did! We hit a lot of the highlights, but Annabelle (his 1.5 yr. old daughter) was getting a bit tired and restless, so we decided to head back to the hotel. When we got back, Darin, Warwick, and I decided to walk to the comic store next door while his wife took the baby up to the room. We walked in and headed straight for the Star Wars stuff. As we walked in, the store clerk casually helped us. Warwick went on to another part of the store and the guy said nothing. Now what fun is it going into a store that secializes in Star Wars stuff with Warwick Davis if nobody recognizes him?? Forgive us, but we HAD to say something. Yeah, yeah, it was self serving, but dang it if it ain't every day that I walk into a sci-fi store with Wicket/Willow/Warwick Davis. Admit it, you would have said something, too. I said, "Yup, he's interested in the Star Wars stuff because he's the guy that played Wicket." The clerk perked up and said, "You know, I was just thinking to myself that he looked a lot like Warwick Davis! Wow! What's he doing here?!" and we then started talking. :) It was a lot of fun.
That evening we went to Planet Hollywood. They reserved a table for our merry band and gave us free meals. Wow again! It was a lot of fun! In Dallas, he had a line of people at his table that he signed autographs for. Surprisingly, in Houston, nobody came up to him. Well, one guy did. In a strange twist of fate, there was another little person seated at the table next to us. He was getting a bit loud, obviously drunk. He yelled out, "Wooooowww!!!!" My wife looked over at him, and he replied, "I said 'Wooooww!' because I just drank a Terminator and it terminated me! Haw haw!" I leaned over to my wife and said, "I think he just drank Terminator, Terminator 2, and Terminator 3-D." He got louder and louder saying, "Hey! Bring my food! I was in Wizard of Oz! Hey! I was in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! Hurry up with my pizza!" Ironic, considering the guy at the table next to him really WAS in the movies! :) He then proceeded to wander into the kitchen looking for his food. He then came over to Warwick and said, "Hey! If someone comes up to you and starts talking a lot say, 'I'm too short for a long conversation'! Ha ha!!!" Warwick gave him a complimentary laugh, then leaned over and said, "Everyone here is going to think he's with us!" We got a chuckle at that. He then started talking to Annabelle, who just stared at him with a look like "Crazy old man!" He eventually left, and we were at peace again.
The next day at the show, there were a ton of people there for Warwick's autograph. Phil Brown (Uncle Owen) was also at the con. Warwick was very cool and chatted with everyone. On his table he had Wicket's toes (really!) and the bolos that he smacked himself in the face with. He says he also has Willow's wand back home. In yet another move that blew me away, he signed both mine and Darin's posters for free. We insisted on paying, but he refused, saying that it was in appreciation for driving them all around town. Very cool.
Later after the show was over, Warwick and his family ran into a bit of a dire emergency. They were out of diapers for Annabelle. Horror! Warwick needed to make a quick diaper run to the store. They asked if I could drive him there. How could I say no? Only problem was my car. You see, I borrowed the nice car I escorted them around town in the day before. However, now I had my dirty everyday car. The floorboards are filled with old cups, newspapers, junk mail, etc. It hasn't been washed in a very, very long time. I told Warwick, "Let me meet you out front." I then ran out to the car, scooped up armfulls of garbage, and threw it all in the trunk. :) I met Warwick, and we headed off in search of diapers.
We chatted a little bit more, so I asked him some about his car. How did he drive? He told me that he has pedal extenders that clamp onto the brake and accelerator and it allows him to drive. Do they have custom built furniture? Nope! He says that everything is big, just like in anyone else's house. Warwick said that surprised most of their friends.
We went into the store and began looking through all the brands of diapers. It was then that the full moment hit me. If anyone had told me 15 years ago that one day I'd be shopping for diapers with Warwick Davis, I'd have laughed in their face. Yet, there I was. Warwick also went through the same dilemma I often go through. Which brand of shampoo does the wife want? He picked as best as he could, and went back to the hotel. Mission accomplished. Later that night Warwick and his family flew to LA so he could begin filming a new movie (not SW related).
In conclusion, I just thought I'd say that Warwick is one of the most fun Star Wars personalities that I've met. I'm not just saying that because he's likely reading this, either. :) Even if he weren't in the films, he's probably someone you'd have a lot of similar interests with and enjoy talking to. And best of all, he's having FUN doing all this stuff. Who cares about meeting Alec Guinness or Harrison Ford. Who'd want to listen to them gripe about the films? Warwick enjoys what he's doing and shares it with others.