As Potter tour expands, Warwick Davis reflects on playing goblin banker

Bethany Minelle, entertainment reporter

Warwick Davis says being a non-able bodied actor has pushed him to strive harder in his career.

Despite attempts to increase on-screen diversity, the industry's progress has been painfully slow.

While about 20% of the adult population have a disability, a study of 900 films released between 2007 and 2016 showed that just 2.7% of the characters with a speaking part had a disability.

But Davis, who suffers from a rare form of dwarfism and started in the business when he was 12, is the exception to the rule, having performed in two of the most successful film franchises in the world.

The 49-year-old says he feels "very fortunate", adding: "I'm reminded of it every day when somebody says they grew up watching Star Wars and it's such a part of their lives or that Harry Potter has been a special part of their childhood.

"I feel I'm very lucky to have managed to be part of these two huge film series. Not a day goes by where I don't talk about them some way or another."

And Wednesday was no exception, with the actor revisiting the Warner Bros studios to celebrate the expansion of the Making Of Harry Potter tour - 18 years after the first film was shot there.

Davis plays not one but two of the roles in the Potter juggernaut, which counts itself among the world's most successful film franchises of all time.

Davis - who got a double-booking as both Professor Flitwick and Griphook the goblin - says he has a soft spot for the Gringotts Bank employee as "baddies are always more fun".

Undergoing four hours a day in the make-up chair in preparation for the role became part of the acting process for him, fitting a prosthetic mask, wig and contact lenses to totally change his appearance.

But it was a part of the costume that really made him feel the part.

"For Griphook it was the shoes. You get familiar with wearing them and when you're in those shoes you become the character. When I put those shoes on, I was like 'now I feel ready'."

But looking so different wasn't always easy.

He explained: "It's a weird experience looking in the mirror and not seeing yourself looking back. Because you've got contact lenses and you're not even seeing your own eyes looking back at you. It's a completely different person.

"It's a compliment for me when people say: 'I didn't realise you played Griphook' because then obviously our illusion has been successful."

He embraced the part, but admits he is no method actor: "When I'm filming, I don't go around the whole day as Griphook, I'm Warwick in between scenes.

"But it's funny, when you're in make-up like this, people don't talk to you. You're a bit isolated on set.

"The studio will be full of cast and crew, but I'll be sat down on my chair and no one will talk to me because I look miserable, even though I'm not inside."

Despite the length of time that has passed since filming, behind-the-scenes memories are still vivid.

Make-up and prosthetics expert Sarita Allison describes the lunchtime bustle of 60 goblins and 140 make-up artists (two or three per goblin) sitting down for lunch.

She warmly recalls: "They were wearing formal shirts and using tiny napkins while cutting food into tiny pieces because the false teeth and prosthetics meant they couldn't eat properly. It's an image embedded into my mind."

It's a scene that sounds worthy any Potter film.

Davis says author JK Rowling would sometimes come onto the set, but explains that she was never "overbearing" - adding: "She'd done her work and allowed the filmmakers to do theirs."

As for the industry embracing diversity - Davis says on-screen representation of non-able bodied actors is improving... but slowly.

He explained: "It's not as quick as we'd all like, but nonetheless I think as an actor it made me more tenacious. I have more tenacity and more determination, because you have to fight a little bit harder to get those parts and to be noticed.

"It's a testament ITV that I have my own afternoon quiz show, Tenable. I think we're making inroads slowly on that. But what could be more diverse in the group of goblins really?"

:: The Warner Bros Making Of Harry Potter tour expands to include the Gringotts Wizarding Bank from the 6 April.