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Piers Morgan's Life Stories

  • Episode: 

    4 of 6

  • Title: 

    Warwick Davis
  • Transmission (TX): 

    Fri 16 Oct 2015
  • TX Confirmed: 

    Yes
  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 42 2015 : Sat 10 Oct - Fri 16 Oct
  • Channel: 

    ITV
  • Amended: 

    Thu 15 Oct 2015
Warwick Davis is one of Britain’s best loved TV personalities. When talking to Piers for Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, which will be on ITV at 9pm on Friday 16th October, Warwick discussed:
 
- His life growing up with SED and how he deals with his condition
- His marriage and relationship with his dear wife Sam
- Their difficulties in having children and their tragic losses
- His entry into film from ‘Leprechaun’ to ‘Return of the Jedi’
- His further successes as a TV personality, founder of his own theatre company and charity
 
Growing up and dealing with SED
 
Warwick told Piers about the condition he has that means he’s 3ft 6.
 
Warwick: “I have Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, shortened to SED. The ends of the bone are not formed correctly and as a result of that I am short.”
 
Piers said: “It’s a form of dwarfism, which is the all encompassing phrase for all little people, which I think is the way all people who are little like to be described now. How do you feel about your height? Has it ever really bothered you?”
 
Warwick said: “Well it is who I am. My height has dictated who, as a person, I have become. It’s all in here [points to his head].  You are as tall as you feel.”
 
Warwick said: “People do tend to avoid the subject. You know we are all so worried in this sort of age of political correctness of not saying the wrong thing and I think that what that is doing is stifling the conversation and communication, and for me I want people to come out and say it. And I do notice people getting a form of Tourette’s, almost, when they talk to me because they start using the word short, the word small, little, dwarf in normal conversation without meaning to because they are trying not to say it, and the more they try not to the more they say it. I had a guy come round to measure up for the patio and I said “I want a little wall around the edge” and he said “You mean a dwarf, you mean you [mimics stuttering]” and I said “Yeah, I want one of them” because it is called a dwarf wall but he was trying to avoid saying it.”
 
Piers asked: “What are the taboo phrases? I think midget is deemed offensive”
 
Warwick said: “Midget is very unacceptable. Absolutely.”
 
Piers asked: “What are the other practical issues, like for example, when you go to a supermarket? I just imagine there are shelves and some of them you can’t reach. What would you do in that situation?”
 
Warwick joked: “Well for many years my diet consisted of only things that were on the lower three shelves. It’s called the shelf diet. You have to be very resourceful as a little person.”
 
Piers asked: “What do you do with a trolley if the stuff goes on the bottom and you can’t reach it?”
 
Warwick said: “It is a nightmare. Those deep trolleys, it is in there for good and when I get to the checkout I unload half the stuff and then I can’t get the rest out and then there is that flap at the end that allows them to go together - you could flap that up and reach in. It is like crawling into a giant mousetrap though, if that door goes down you are in the trolley for good.”
 
Piers asked: “I’ve heard that there are people from some parts of the world who literally just want to touch you.”
 
Warwick said: “Yes, well in some cultures the little people are lucky.”
 
Piers asked: “Ireland and Japan being two.”
 
Warwick said: “Yes, in Japan I can’t figure that one out but when I was there there was a lot of touching going on. A lot of touching and recently I got into a lift and I had walked past somebody and thought, “She is having a look, she wants to have a touch” and she got in the lift with me and now I was trapped and she got a fair old share of luck that day. She had more than a helping. She probably won the lottery after that.”
 
Piers asked: “Would you find it a constant frustration and irritation or is it just something that you have always had to deal with and that is what it is?”
 
Warwick said: “I don’t think I have ever been frustrated about being short. It is something you deal with and I actually get great amusement from it most of the time because I see it for what it is and it is like “Oh it doesn’t work out” like when automatic doors don’t sense me and I have to do a little jig outside and I watch the people inside not knowing where to look and so those occasions, I know it happens and I think it is quite fun.”
 
Warwick began life with an uncertain future when he was born in Surrey in 1970 and his parents, who are both average height, received some unexpected news. Ashley Davis, Warwick’s Dad, explained, “The doctor walked in in his white coat”. Sue, Warwick’s mum, recalled the doctor’s first words being “It’s short, it’s small. Not saying either a boy or a girl.” Warwick’s small stature was due to an extremely rare growth disorder known as SED, which at the time was little understood. Ashley said: “They said that he probably wouldn’t live a long life, only into his teens. He’d have to go to a special school, he’d be in a wheelchair.”
 
Piers asked: “When you were born your parents didn’t know you were going to emerge with this condition. It must have been an incredibly harrowing time for your parents?”
 
Warwick said of his parents: “They stood strong and again that is the reason I am who I am today because they filled my world with such positivity and such hope and such optimism, I suppose.”
 
Piers asked: “Kids, when they are very young, at school can be either very kind or very cruel. What was your experience?”
 
Warwick said: “I had a great school life. My overriding memory of school is a very positive one. I had good friends, good teachers, teachers that didn’t treat me any differently. I was always chosen last when they were choosing teams, you know the feeling I am sure (he joked to Piers) and having to do something like the long jump and still having to get involved. I couldn’t even get to the sandpit. Having to do the high jump, again, I couldn’t even get on the mat. Football, nightmare, people would think I was the ball. I did score once, the ball hit me and I was standing there minding my own business thinking “I am never going to see any action in this game” the ball hit me, bounced off and went in the goal.
 
Warwick’s marriage and relationship with Sam
 
By his teens Warwick had found huge success as a movie star but his love life was proving a flop. Warwick took a fancy to Sam Burrows, who he had known for a while and had appeared alongside him in ‘Willow’. Sam said: “My first memories of Warwick, he was this annoying little boy. I was 13 he was 14 and he had a remote controlled car and wasn’t impressed.” But things began to change when Warwick, aged 18, found himself on stage alongside Sam in a production of Snow White at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. Two years later in 1991 Warwick and Sam tied the knot. 
 
Piers: “You’ve been happily married for 24 years. Could you have done what you’ve done without Sam in your life? “
 
Warwick: “Absolutely not. She’s the backup, she’s there for you and you need somebody like that in this business especially, somebody to keep you grounded. I’m the one on the screen getting all the glory, but she’s in the back room keeping the machinery running.”
 
Piers: “Do you remember your first kiss?”
 
Warwick: “Yes I do, it was on New Year’s Eve. We were in the middle of the stage and the curtain was down and Sam just sort of thrust herself upon me!”
 
Piers: “And you thought, ‘this is the one for me?’”
 
Warwick: “I did, I’d never kissed anyone before!”
 
Piers: “You proposed to Sam a year later when you were 20.  Was it a romantic proposal?”
 
Warwick: “I wish I’d done something a bit more spectacular. These people that you see on telly who have gone up a mountain… they annoy me. I mean honestly, I just give her the ring. I just got on one knee and said, ‘will you marry me’ and she said, ‘yeah’. Of course she said yeah. She didn’t know I was kneeling down though because I’m… (makes hand gesture to indicate height)”
 
Warwick and Sam’s tragic loss, followed by the joy of having their children Annabelle and Harrison
 
Three months after the wedding their son Lloyd was born. But when Lloyd was just 2 hours old the doctors became concerned, he was struggling to breathe, as his lungs were small and not developing. The doctors advised Warwick and Sam to take Lloyd off the ventilator.  He died when he was just nine days old.
 
Sam said emotionally: “Half past four we went downstairs and they gave Lloyd to me and Warwick and he passed away in our arms. And what is amazing is that it was the best thing we ever did, because you wouldn’t want him to die on the machine, he died in our arms full of love. And at his funeral I was the proudest mum in the world.”
 
Piers asked: “I mean there can’t be anything worse for any new parents than what you had to go through with Lloyd, to lose a son, any child after a few days. What do you remember of that time?”
 
Warwick said: “It kind of becomes a blur, all of the protective mechanisms kick in and it is very hard to take in all of the emotions and everything that is happening. Doctors are telling you one thing, you don’t want to believe what they are saying but it just comes down to the fact, in the end, that life has to take its course.”
 
Piers asked: “When you look at pictures of Lloyd, aged just a few days there, beautiful little baby. What do you feel when you look at him?”
 
Warwick said: “Immense pride, my son was somebody, he was on this earth for 9 days and brought a lot of happiness to people, and a lot of anguish to me and Sam.”
 
Piers asked: “Did you realise the kind of genetic lottery you were playing with?”
 
Warwick replied: “We didn’t realise what potentially could happen if we were to have a child. We had no understanding of that and the thing is that the genetic lottery is that is resets every time. So if you have a child that inherits both genes and doesn’t survive, the next time you go for a child it is the same odds again, one in four chance.”
 
Sam fell pregnant again and they lost their son George at 19 weeks.
 
Piers asked: “When you lost George as well, obviously another hammer blow, it didn’t put you off again. You had two more children, Annabelle and Harrison.”
 
Warwick said: “We were obviously very relieved but I mean the early days for Annabelle and Harrison were not without their worrying times. They were both on the ventilator for some time because their lungs didn’t have the capacity when they were born to support them. So then you start to think “Oh this is Lloyd all over again?” but fortunately, miraculously they were nursed to full health and now live very active, full lives and do our heads in!
 
Piers asked: “They both have your condition, SED. Obviously you are the perfect person I guess to advise and help them. Do you have any fears or concerns for them, as they get older?”
 
Warwick said: “Yeah, well I think it is easier when the entire family have a condition, we all have dwarfism, it is easier for them to except who they are because their peers are also short. We have experienced life and hopefully can guide Annabelle and Harrison in the best possible way and also at the same time though let them become their own people and make their own mark on the world.”
 
Warwick’s film career
 
When Warwick was 11 years old his granny heard a call out on the radio for short actors to be in the new Star Wars film and he got a part in Return of The Jedi. 
 
Warwick said: “It was an amazing experience meeting my heroes face to face at the age of 11.  It was indescribable.”
 
He later played the lead in the George Lucas film Willow at the age of 17.  George Lucas gave Warwick good advice.  Warwick recalled: “He (Lucas) said, when Willow come out, things are going to change for you, you’ll be recognised, but always remember who you are, stay true to that person and don’t believe the hype.  Really important advice.”
 
In the early 90s Warwick accepted title role in horror movie – Leprechaun, starring a young Jennifer Aniston.  Then, in 2000, Warwick got to audition for Harry Potter – he appeared in all 8 films in a variety of roles.  
 
Talking about working with Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter, Warwick said: “When we started working on the very first film, I think I was taller than Daniel, but by the end of it, he was a young adult and had shot up in height and in fame.”
 
He later teamed up with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant to make sitcom Life’s Too Short.
 
Piers said: “It did break a lot of boundaries, Life’s Too Short, and it was excruciatingly funny and occasionally, just excruciating, which I guess is that reality of what your life has been like.”
 
Warwick: “Absolutely. These are things I spoke about to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant who wrote and directed the series. I would tell them these little anecdotes, and then they would start writing scenes that hadn’t happened, but I wondered why they hadn’t, because they were so real. They’d managed to get into my headspace, and the headspace of somebody who was short. ‘Warwick in that series, he was so determined to do well!’ and every time it was going ok, something happened. Very much Laurel and Hardy-esque, or Frank Spencer with the slapstick elements that come into it, but the idea that success is within your grasp but something comes along last minute.”
 
The pain Warwick endures
 
Piers: “There’s a physical reality to your condition: you’re in pain almost all the time, and always have been.”
 
Warwick: “I do experience quite a lot of pain in walking, and with any kind of physical exertion – they next day I’ll pay for it in my elbow joints, my knee joints, hip joints. But I’ve got a pretty high pain threshold and I don’t take painkillers -  I don’t want to. I just deal with it. Again, it becomes part of you and part of the determination to conquer it and get through and I think it boosts your character, I suppose.”
 
Piers: “What about situations like applying for car insurance?”
 
Warwick: “These online forms…my statistics completely mess that up.  My height, my age my weight doesn’t work.  The computer says no!”
 
New territory: Warwick’s further accomplishments
 
Warwick’s face has recently started to make more and more appearances upon our TV screens but not only as an actor.  Les Dennis, Warwick’s friend, said: “Warwick is now famous, not just for being a brilliant actor, but also for being a wonderful television personality.”
 
Nick Dudman, Warwick’s friend, said: “He started off like so many other little people being hired because he’s little, now he’s hired because he’s Warwick Davis.”
 
Responding, Warwick said: “That’s a lovely sentiment and lovely thing to think about. I fully acknowledge the fact that I’m short is the reason that I’m sitting here talking to you now.  It’s the reason I got my very first role.  But it is lovely to be regarded and given the opportunity to do so many diverse things - hosting game shows, presenting TV shows that do not have anything to do with the fact that I am short.”
 
Warwick uses his new profile to help broaden the horizons of other short actors. He set up the Reduced Height Theatre Company – all the performers are little people. Warwick and Sam believed that some people with dwarfism need other kinds of support and have founded their own charity – Little People UK.
 
Piers said: “The charity set up with Sam – Little People UK – what would you say are the primary purposes?”
 
Warwick said:  “Well it’s really to support people with dwarfism and their families because we acknowledge at the same time it’s sometimes not about just the person with the condition, their families can sometimes have a very hard time coping, understanding and dealing with the condition, especially if they are average height. But at the same time helping the medical profession to pull their resources.”
 
Piers said: “I wonder if any of the doctors who referred to you as ‘it’ are watching tonight…it would be quite a sobering discovery that the child they called ‘it’ is now Warwick Davis; one of the biggest starts in the country.”
 
Warwick said: “They were acting in a way that they did at that point. You’ve got to remember it was 1970 so there was even less understanding than there is perhaps even now; we still have a lot to learn.”       
 
When asked about his dream role, Warwick told Piers: “Chat show’s where I want to be.  I want to be where you are (to Piers).”
 
And how would Warwick like to be remembered: “Actor who just happened to be short.”