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Warwick Davis: Val Kilmer’s “spirit” lives on in the new Willow Disney+ series

Warwick Davis: Val Kilmer’s “spirit” lives on in the new Willow Disney+ series

Willow star opens up about the cult classic’s revival on the small screen

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Val Kilmer may not return to the world Willow in a new series debuting on Disney+ this week, but his presence will be very much a part of the show, says star Warwick Davis.

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Davis reprises her role as farmer-turned-wizard Willow Ufgood alongside Joanne Whalley as warrior queen Sorsha in the highly anticipated TV sequel to the 1988 fantasy. But Kilmer, who lost his speaking voice due to throat cancer, will not be back as master swordsman Madmartigan, who helped Willow protect a special child from an evil sorceress in the original.

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Talking to SunDavis, 52, explains that Kilmer’s character will still play a role in the follow-up to the film, which was directed by Ron Howard and produced by George Lucas.

“Val’s spirit is very much a part of the show, and there are a lot of references to him as we get to the end,” Davis says in a video call from London. “Val and I have been in touch ever since the film. I’ll tell you, there wasn’t a day that went by on the show when we were filming that I didn’t think about Val and I would love for him to be a part of it. But unfortunately things didn’t work out on this occasion.”

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Val Kilmer in a scene from Willow.
Val Kilmer in a scene from Willow. Photo by Lucasfilm

Continuing the story of Willow and Madmartigan was something Kilmer had been eager to pursue, Davis confirms.

“Val has always been a big fan of Willow and over the years he’s always wanted to do a sequel,” Star Wars and Harry Potter says the star. “At one point he suggested that he and I go to New Zealand and film some scenes to show to George to try and see if that would inspire him (to write another one).”

Co-created by Jonathan Kasdan (who wrote Solo: A Star Wars Story and Indiana Jones 5), the new series takes place decades after the events of the first film and follows a new group of heroes led by Princess Kit (Ruby Cruz), the daughter of Sorcha and Madmartigan, as they recruit Willow to help them save the world from a dark threat.

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Ruby Cruz in a scene from Willow.
Ruby Cruz in a scene from Willow. Photo by Lucasfilm

Willow follows other classic Lucasfilm characters who are brought back to continue stories. Earlier this year, Ewan McGregor returned as Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars character he first played in the 1999s The Phantom Menace. More recently, Diego Luna starred in a spinoff centered on Cassian Andor, his Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hero.

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“There’s a lot of pressure on Willow when we find him in this series,” Davis says of this new iteration of his magical wizard. “He has seen the good and the bad in life and he has been affected by it. Now he has a responsibility almost beyond his capacity.”

With the show now streaming on Disney+, Davis spoke with the Sun via Zoom to discuss the pressures of making a TV series and the enduring popularity of Willow.

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Willow Ufgood is such a beloved character. Was there more excitement or pressure in returning to this world?

“There was a lot of excitement, but at the same time there was also a lot of pressure. It came from all those fans who had really been asking for a sequel all these years. I wanted to make sure the show did them justice and didn’t ruin their cherished memories of the first Willow.”

Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) in Lucasfilm's WILLOW exclusively on Disney+.
Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) in Lucasfilm’s WILLOW exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Lucasfilm

I remember seeing the original in theaters and loving it. Why do you think it has lasted all these years?

“It was a George Lucas creation, and if you look at all the work George has done, they’ve always been full of well-rounded characters that we can identify with in some way. But there’s a great story at the heart of that too Although there were a lot of special effects – sort of like Star Wars – these characters and the story were at the heart of it. That’s what people latched onto. Something can look amazing, but if it doesn’t have great characters and history at the heart of it, it won’t excite or be remembered.”

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Joanne Whalley as Sorsha in a scene from Willow.
Joanne Whalley as Sorsha in a scene from Willow. Photo by Lucasfilm
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I had heard talk of a sequel over the years. How does what we see in the series differ from some of the other ideas that were considered?

“There had been talk of sequels, but I think it was mainly the fans. Jon Kasdan was the catalyst behind the series. He was a fan and he stayed with Ron Howard on Solo and they talked about it. It’s unusual for ideas to move quickly in Hollywood – ideas can take up to five to ten years, and then they lose steam. But with Willowit went very quickly.”

There is a youthful innocence in the performance, but there is also a darkness in the story. How did you want to grow the story for the audience?

“The series is gradually getting darker, but I think it’s important. You must have light and shadow. So it gets dark enough. Audiences are used to being treated to all aspects of emotion and drama in a particular series, so we felt we had to tell this story that we had to go to those places.”

Willow now streaming on Disney+

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