Watch: The cast of Willow discuss Val Kilmer's absence
Developed by Solo’s Jonathan Kasdan, this six-episode series returns Davis to his wizard robes for the first time since writer George Lucas cast him as the unlikely lead in Ron Howard’s nostalgic classic back when he was just 17 years old. This time, he’s joined by a new group of faces and sent on a brand new journey. However, there’s one iconic face from Willow’s past that was sadly unable to return: Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan.
Read more: Does Val Kilmer return in Willow?
After a battle with throat cancer left the star struggling with his speech, it was revealed earlier this year that he would not reprise his role, with familiar screen icon Christian Slater stepping in to play a similar-yet-different character. That said, Kasdan’s cast assures us that Madmartigan’s presence will very much still be felt throughout the show in a number of different ways.
“It’s difficult. Everyone wants Madmartigan,” argues Amar Chadha-Patel, a new series star who plays Boorman, a mysterious warrior with a similar swagger to the one Kilmer had in 1988. “He’s the epitome of that archetype of the roguish guy with a sword. I tried to do that in my own way,” he teases. “We tried to expand on that role and make this character cool, funny and silly - and obviously his own thing.
He continues, adding. “He’s flawed in a way that most of these roguish archetypes aren’t. He’s not the apex of what it’s like to be a hero and a cool guy and at times, he’s more fragile than everybody else, so we’re playing with that archetype a lot. There had to be a tall guy with a sword so I just tried to do that.”
To prepare for his role as Willow’s newest hero, Chadha-Patel put himself through a rigorous training regime that involved some unusual meal choices. “I put on about 13 to 15 kgs of muscle. It was really hard,” he tells us. “I ate about 5,000 calories a day for about five months and picked up a lot of heavy things and put them down again.”
His co-star Erin Kellyman remembers his training well: “There was one time when he blended all of his lunch and I was like, ‘this is miserable…’” she chuckles. “I was like ‘I’ll blend it, it’ll be like gazpacho — and it was not,” adds Chadha-Patel with a frown. “You can’t just blend vegetables and it becomes soup. It was horrible.”
Meanwhile, his co-stars found an unlikely, foodie-focused way to bond between takes: “We ate Nandos,” reveals Ellie Bamber, who plays Dove, a character with a secret.
“I ate Nandos all the time. I am obsessed,” echos Spider-Man: No Way Home star Toni Revolori, who appears in Willow as the studious Prince Graydon.
“I think I ate Nando’s every day for about four weeks. I love and adore Nando’s. We don’t have Nando’s in America so I ate it all the time.”
Willow is streaming on Disney+ from 30 November.
Watch: The cast of Willow address Val Kilmer's presence in the show