Warwick Davis was just 17 years old when they shot “Willow,” a fantasy film George Lucas had been thinking about making since 1972. He wanted to create a picture exploring the theme of the little guy standing up to the big bully, and had the idea of using Little People actors to lend a literal visual cue within a sword-and-sorcery setting. Lucas actually pitched the idea to Davis when he was just 11 and playing the Ewok Wicket in “Return of the Jedi.”
Imagine being a kid in a teddy bear costume, being asked by George Lucas if you wanted to star in his next big project. Shivers.
Like a lot of 1980s fantasy, “Willow” was unfairly maligned and misunderstood. Directed by Ron Howard, it was clearly intended for a younger audience — as were the “Star Wars” films, at least under Lucas’ helm — and so people like me tended to devalue it because it didn’t feature blood, guts or boobs.
What it is is a gentle, imaginative fable in the mode of “The Hobbit,” as a young nobody is plucked from obscurity to do great things and change the course of the world.