See the Cast of ‘Willow’ Then and Now
Following the success of his ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, George Lucas chose to collaborate with Ron Howard on a family-friendly fantasy film about a little but brave man forced by fate into a grand adventure. The result was 1988’s ‘Willow.’ Ultimately the film earned mixed reviews and was deemed only a moderate box office success, yet it became a beloved touchstone of countless childhoods.
With Fox Home Entertainment on the verge of releasing the film on Blu-ray to celebrate it’s 25th anniversary, we wanted to take a look back at the stars who made this movie magic, and catch up on where they are now.
Warwick Davis, Willow Ufgood
Then: It was actually Warwick’s debut film role that led the way to ‘Willow.’ Cast as an Ewok in ‘Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi,’ he caught the notice of George Lucas. This first led to achieving an on-set promotion from Ewok extra to principal character Wicket, and then a humorous doc short titled ‘Return of the Ewok.’ Lucas was so taken by the young actor, who was only 13 when ‘Return of the Jedi’ premiered, that he conceived ‘Willow’ as a vehicle just for him. Notably, Willow was the first role Davis played where his face wasn’t hidden beneath masks or prosthetic makeup.
Now: While many little people performers have had little opportunity in film and television, Warwick has found plenty of roles, most often in fantasy, sci-fi and horror movies. Aside from playing the title character in six features in the ‘Leprechaun’ horror franchise, he also landed roles in the ‘Star Wars’ prequels and the ‘Harry Potter’ films. Then in 2011, he took his career to new, er, heights as the star of the Ricky Gervais-produced mockumentary series ‘Life’s Too Short.’
Kate Greenfield, Elora Danan
Then: Though the movie is named for its pint-sized hero, ‘Willow’ is all about what will become of this adorable red-headed baby. Destined for greatness, Elora was a major threat to the Evil Bavmorda. To keep her out of the queen’s cruel clutches, Willow and his crew had to leap from balconies, engage in rollicking cart chases and do battle against vicious villains all while carefully cradling this important infant.
Because Elora is in almost every scene of the film, a bunch of baby actors were cast to play her, along with an animatronic infant, the very thought of which is pure nightmare fuel. However, most commonly twins Kate and Ruth Greenfield get credit.
Now: ‘Willow’ marked the Greenfield girls’ first and last movie role. Both have since retreated into private lives, though we did find the above photo on what appears to be Kate’s still in-use Myspace page. Alternately, Laura Hopkirk, who played Elora for portions of the production’s New Zealand shoot, recently ran into Warwick Davis. Check out that photo on Davis’ blog.
David Steinberg, Meegosh
Then: Prior to playing Willow’s meek best friend, Steinberg made his screen debut in an episode of the crime drama ‘The Equalizer.’
Now: Steinberg went on to perform in film, television and theater, but struggled to find steady work. Before his suicide in 2010, he had chalked up roles in the romantic-comedy ‘Love & Sex,’ the blaxploitation parody ‘The Hebrew Hammer,’ the Diane Arbus biopic ‘Fur’ and the horror-comedy ‘Transylmania.’
Billy Barty, High Aldwin
Then: Barty’s film career began at three-years-old in 1927, when he appeared in the Mickey Rooney short ‘Mickey’s Eleven.’ It was the first of many productions the two would work on together. Aside from performing in plenty of comedies, Barty was often cast in fantasy features. Before playing Willow’s magical mentor, he’d appeared as Screwball in ‘Legend’ and Gwildor in ‘Masters of The Universe.’
Now: Barty went on to perform in films from the Weird Al Yankovic comedy ‘UHF’ to the Disney animated adventure ‘The Rescuers Down Under.’ He died in 2000 at the age of 76, leaving behind a film and television legacy that included a whopping 177 titles.
Val Kilmer, Madmartigan
Then: Kilmer made his film debut in the 1984 spy spoof ‘Top Secret!’ Shortly thereafter he appeared in his first action movie, playing the antagonizing and air-biting Iceman in ‘Top Gun.’ Then in ‘Willow,’ he had the chance to mix a bit of humor with sheer brawn as this surly warrior with a heart of gold.
Now: Kilmer has gone on to have an incredible and prolific career. Not only has he had the chance to play such iconic roles as Batman, Jim Morrison and Doc Holliday, he’s also worked with a wide array of acclaimed filmmakers, including Francis Ford Coppola (‘Twixt’), Michael Mann (‘Heat’), Werner Herzog (‘The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans’) and Terrence Malick (2013’s ‘Untitled Terrence Malick Project’). He also rivals Nic Cage for pure weirdness.
Joanne Whalley, Sorsha
Then: This English ingenue began her career in British television in the mid-1970s. Before being cast in ‘Willow’ as the fiery warrior princess, she won acclaim and earned a BAFTA nomination for her performance in the miniseries ‘Edge of Darkness.’ Fun fact: her onscreen romance with Val Kilmer led to real-life love, and the two were married in 1988. Less fun fact: they divorced in 1996.
Now: Whalley continues to work in film and television. In 2011, she reunited with Kilmer on the horror-thriller ‘Twixt,’ and currently stars in the Showtime historical drama ‘The Borgias,’
Jean Marsh, Queen Bavmorda
Then: Marsh had been working as a screen actress for more than 30 years when she was cast to play the baby-murdering sorceress with a penchant for pigs. This included roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Frenzy,’ and the celebrated horror-thriller ‘The Changeling.’ She had also co-created and co-starred in the UK drama series ‘Upstairs Downstairs.’
Now: Marsh continues to work, predominantly in British television. Most recently, she reprised the role of Mrs. Rose Buck for the Emmy-winning revival of ‘Upstairs Downstairs,’ which debuted 35 years after the first series wrapped.
Kevin Pollak, Rool
Then: A professional stand-up comic for more than a decade, Pollak was the perfect pick to play the lustful, beer-loving brownie who served as comic relief in ‘Willow.’ Though he had a handful of television appearances to his credit, this was only Pollak’s second film role, following the little known comedy ‘Million Dollar Mystery.’
Now: This funny fantasy adventure proved Pollak’s breakthrough in movies. He went on score roles in ‘A Few Good Men,’ ‘Grumpy Old Men,’ and ‘The Usual Suspects.’ More recently, he’s appeared in Kevin Smith’s buddy comedy ‘Cop Out’ and horror thriller ‘Red State.’ He also hosts the online series ‘The Kevin Pollak Chat Show.”
Rick Overton, Franjean
Then: Playing Pollak’s comically stern partner in crime, Overton had previously worked with the stand-up comedian in ‘Million Dollar Mystery.’ Before that he’d scored roles in comedies like ‘Airplane II: The Sequel,’ ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ and ‘Gung Ho.’
Now: Overton went on to snag parts in a string of kooky comedies, including ‘Groundhog Day,’ ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ and ‘Edtv.’ In the past few years, he’s gone for raunchier fare, like the Cameron Diaz vehicle ‘Bad Teacher,’ and the wacky sex-comedy ‘The Babymakers.’
Gavan O’Herlihy, Airk Thaughbaer
Then: O’Herlihy’s first major role came in 1974, when he was cast as Chuck Cunningham on the popular sitcom ‘Happy Days.’ A slew of one-off roles on television followed. Then, he made his film debut in Robert Altman’s 1978 comedy ‘A Wedding.’ More film roles soon followed, including his part as the noble but unforgiving knight Airk.
Now: He’s gone on to make appearances on such popular television shows as ‘Twin Peaks,’ ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ and ‘Midsomer Murders.’ Most recently, he co-starred in the horror-thriller ‘The Descent: Part 2.’