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Acting you only get to do once in a while

Last night, I was watching Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 again (don’t you judge me!), and at the beginning, there is a scene where the trio have to negotiate with the goblin Griphook for his help breaking into a vault at Gringott’s. (If you’re lost by what I just said, go read the books and watch the movies. Really. It’s only the most popular book series EVER. What, have you been living under a rock for the last 15 years?)

Warwick Davis is the actor who plays Griphook. He also plays Professor Flitwick at Hogwarts, both because he is awesome and I guess because they felt they were paying enough short people and didn’t want to hire any extra. If you have watched fantasy or science fiction movies in the last 30 years or so, you have seen this actor, although he is usually covered in makeup or running a robot suit or something similar. The exception is his starring turn as the title character in Willow, an underrated fantasy film from George Lucas back when fickle fans had just started hating everything he did.

His Griphook is another turn in heavy makeup, but it’s so well-done that he is able to make you forget it’s there. In fact, as I was watching this scene, I was impressed by how subtle his acting is. A few eye movements, slight nods of the head, and subtle intonations of voice, but he conveys worlds with each one. If I were teaching an acting course now, I would use this scene to demonstrate how to act for a camera. He is mesmerizing.

This got me thinking about his other roles, and how little chance he’s had to do that kind of subtle, really impressive acting. I mean, he’s not alone in the genre acting world - most SF/F films seem to think audiences will only respond to the broadest of strokes from an actor’s palette. For most of his career, Davis hasn’t been challenged to give us subtlety. No, I’m sure that in most of his films, he’s constantly being told, (no pun intended), “Bigger! Bigger!”

Which is a shame, because it’s the small moments like that Griphook scene that really can catch an audience and hold them on the edge of their seat, if only you will trust your actors and your audience. My guess, though, is that the powers-that-be don’t really trust the nerds of SF/F fandom, and nix small scenes of powerful dramatic content in favor of another explosion.

Until they day they do, I’ll relish the occasional moment when people like Mr. Davis are allowed to stretch their talents and let us glimpse how good our genre truly could be.

Filed under Harry Potter warwick davis acting