New ‘Willow’ Disney+ series inspired by Val Kilmer’s MadMartigan.

By | December 5, 2022

In the year Of all the life-changing cinema of the 1980s, Jonathan Kasdan has decided that Willow was the first film that created a “moment” in his existence. “It was psychologically important to me in my development,” Kasdan says. Difference. “Oh, I saw that movie, it scared me when I was a kid,” she was shocked.

In the year Directed by Ron Howard (34 at the time) and executive produced by George Lucas in 1988, it centers around Willow (played by 17-year-old Warwick Davis), a witch who is responsible for protecting a magical child from all harm. Betrayal. A collection of revolutionary visual effects from industrial lighting and magic – including the transformation of an army of men into squealing pigs – along with powerhouse performances from Jane Marsh, Val Kilmer and Davis, all beautifully rendered, helped keep “Willow” in the hearts of the VHS generation.

It made such a lasting impression on Kasdan, in fact, that he continued to bring it on the set of “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

“He was always talking about Death Dogs and Bavmorda and Raziel,” recalls Howard, who directed the “Star Wars” prequels from scripts by Kasdan and his father, Lawrence Kasdan. “I was trying to focus on a galaxy far, far away.”

Between his direct relationship with Howard and Davis (who has a small role in “Solo”) and his undying enthusiasm for all things “Willow,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was convinced Cassada was the obvious candidate to helm the new “Willow.” The series and The Fantasy World for Disney+.

The big question is: How?

Val Kilmer as Madmartigan in ‘Willow’.
©MGM/Courtesy of The Everett Collection

After the first several viewings, the answer became clear in Madmartigan’s character, the sword-wielding heartthrob played by Kilmer.

“Val is a unique and important part of that magic because he was so unusual for a fantasy movie to exist,” Kasdan explained. “You look at Tom Cruise in ‘Legend’ and he’s doing Puck in ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ Or Rutger Hauer in ‘Ladyhawke’ and it’s all about supporting English-y ideas about fantasy. Then Val comes along and he’s a sailor from California. It’s a floating boy, and he’s stumbling through the film with an incredible amount of physicality and humor that couldn’t have existed at any time before this happened.

Kasdan used Madmartigan as a tone setter for the series, going for that youth, angst and drama – all of it., Traits familiar to him from his years writing “Dawson’s Creek” episodes. He also brought a youthful vibe to his new song “Willow,” featuring the Gen Z singer and rock covers that play over the credits. But while Kilmer couldn’t be at the center of the series due to health issues — Kasdan called his participation “limited” — the star’s absence is part of the story.

Best of all, Kasdan celebrates Kilmer’s youthful spirit by casting a new cast, starting with newcomer Ruby Cruise, who plays Madmartigan’s daughter Kit Tantalos.

“Ruby stood out to me as the antidote to many of these challenges,” Kasdan says. “When you read it, it reminded me of Val’s spirit. She’s not turning things around by any means, but she was an actress of her time in fantasy, and that was fine with us.

Jade (Erin Kellyman), Keith (Ruby Cruz) and Borman (Amar Chadha-Patel) in Lucafilm’s Willow, only on Disney+.
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Kasdan continued to tweak the script with each new cast member, Erin Kellyman, who worked with Kasdan on “Solo.”

“I had no idea how funny it was. [Kellyman] It was,” says Kasdan. “As the season progresses, she has more opportunities to do what she naturally does, which is very dry, deadpan comedy.”

Cruise and Kellyman will be joined by Tony Revolori, Ellie Bamber, Amar Chadha-Patel and original cast members Joanne Whalley and Davis in The Wizarding World, two decades after the original film ended. Keeping things as close as possible to the original, the new company filmed in the same location as the original “Willow” throughout Wales.

Kasdan spent 11 months abroad reviving the magical world, hampered by covid complications and pre-production. When the going gets tough, Kasdan finds himself seeking advice from another Hollywood king: the “Game of Thrones” show. Runners, David Benioff and Dan Weiss shot mostly in the UK. The duo helped put “Willow” together, and his father even connected him with the horse’s main character, Camilla Napros, who starred in the original film.

While Kasdan knows that “The Willow” will judge the “Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings” crowd, he’s also keenly aware of the difference. Where “The Rings” often demands elven knowledge and “Thrones” involves violence, Lucasfilm has set a low bar for entry and entertainment.

“These were for everybody,” he says. “If it’s just a simple love for the genre, you can go on a journey with the characters. I hope [that] It sets the show apart quite a bit. It’s just for fun – an eight-hour tour.

While most of the jokes and gags are inspired by Kilmer, Kasdan emphasizes that the heart and soul of “Willow” is with Davis. The series continues the story of a struggling wizard, “but his magic, the real magic is his heart and his loyalty to the people around him, his family and friends,” says Kasdan.

Willow Ufgod (Warwick Davis) and Dove (Ellie Bamber) in Lucafilm’s “Willow.”
Lucasfilm Ltd.

20 years later, much has changed for Davis. The actor now has grown children, who joined the production of “Willow”. His daughter Annabelle Davis will play Willow’s grown son Mims, while his son Harrison Davis will act as a body double for future episodes. But Willow the Witch is still struggling.

“When I got the movie back, I always said to Willow [that] Magic hurts,” says Howard. “There was a time where he did a spell and used a wand and it looked like he actually burned his hand or hurt his hand or something. So it’s never been something Willow can do and do randomly. He had this ability but there was a price to be paid with it.

That pain is explored to continue their story on the Disney+ series when the witch and the chosen child (now a teenager herself) are reunited. That’s all longtime fan Kasdan wants — to keep telling Willow’s story.

“There was no mechanism to push this to happen,” says Kasdan, referring to the many vintage IPs that have been resurrected or revived in Hollywood. “The only thing that made it happen was that we loved him. He felt that Ron loved him and that Warwick did.” [right]. It was born out of a desire to tell the story.

Category: tv

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