An Open Letter to Hollywood Regarding Proper Use of Peter Dinklage

An Open Letter to Hollywood Regarding Proper Use of Peter Dinklage

Oct 06, 2011

Dear Hollywood,

If you weren’t joyfully jumping around your living room watching Peter Dinklage accept his Emmy for Game of Thrones a couple weeks ago then I don’t want to know you because ...

 

  1. You don’t watch Game of Thrones, and that is a mistake worthy of a direwolf attack (you don’t know what that is because you suck!), and
  2. You don’t like Peter Dinklage and therefore probably also hate other obviously awesome things like open bars and dogs in Halloween costumes and The Big Lebowski.

While you were busy sucking, Dinklage won his first Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the role of short-statured “imp” Tyrion Lannister. In his acceptance speech, he thanked his dog sitter. It ruled. Peter Dinklage: Great actor and, also, super nice guy.

Here’s my concern, Hollywood: I’m afraid now that he’s garnered the attention and credit he deserves, you still won’t know how to use Dinklage properly in the movies.

Dinklage is 4’5. He has achondroplasia, which makes him a dwarf. And Hollywood, let’s just say you’re not exactly churning out meaningful roles in which to cast dwarves. So how about you just start casting him in parts where all he needs to be is a great actor?

“Often roles written for somebody my size are a little flat,” Dinklage said in a 2003 interview. “They are either fools or they’re sort of Lord of the Rings-filled with wisdom. They are not sexual, they are not romantic, they are not flawed. I don’t like to do parts that are just because of my size. I like there to be more to the character than that.”

And Dinklage has done an admirable job sticking to that belief since his first big movie The Station Agent, a film he says he took because his dwarfism was just another facet of the character, and not his defining trait. He was first and foremost a three-dimensional human being, who just happened to have achondroplasia -- and not the other way around.

He’s even used a meta lens in movies to deride exactly what I’m afraid you’ll keep doing to him, Hollywood. In the movie Elf, he played a powerful publishing boss who beats up Will Ferrell’s character for calling him er, an “elf.” In both the UK and US versions of Death at a Funeral, it’s not weird enough that the deceased father-figure was having a gay affair -- the added punchline is that his paramour is the short-statured Dinklage.

In Dinklage's first film, Living in Oblivion, his character tells a director to shove it by saying, “Make it weird, put a dwarf in it!...I’m sick of it!”



So am I! At this point, Dinklage has proven he’s got star power. He’s magnetic to watch and he’s a good-looking guy on any metric. Give him a role where he’s the love interest or, hell, even where he’s just a normal guy whose height isn’t mentioned. If he reads well for the part, why not make him the character?

Acting is understandably steeped in appearance and the lazy assumptions people can make about a character based on what the actor looks like. Zooey Deschanel is the hipster dream girl because she has bangs and dresses like Urban Outfitters threw up on her. Ryan Reynolds is the handsome lead because he’s got a chiseled jawline and a generic banana-pudding blob of a face. Helen Mirren is older and British and is classy and refined no matter what her actual dialogue is. Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman so he’s always God. Pretty straightforward.

Dinklage stands out in that he really tries not to be typecast. Other actors with achondroplasia -- Verne Troyer, Wee Man, Billy Curtis -- have made names for themselves playing dwarves.

Curtis was a Munchkin in Wizard of Oz, Troyer, who has hydroplasia, was ‘Mini-Me’ in the Austin Powers movies, and Wee Man uses his small size to do stunts on Jackass. Warwick Davis, who played Griphook the Goblin in Harry Potter, is best known for roles as a leprechaun and numerous other magical little people.

A dwarf actor is probably more likely to keep working by taking them, but it doesn’t mean these roles are necessarily always less than; Davis’ Ewok is one of the top 20 Star Wars heros in the franchise. Mini-Me is an iconic comedic performance. I’m sure some very nice Juggalos like Jackass.

The problem is that people with dwarfism have always played Ewoks or Oompa Loompas or goblins. It’s rare to see them just play a person, and that’s a shame.

So, Hollywood, if you could take a break from celebrating Ryan Gosling’s every bowel movement, I’d really like it if you’d make a movie where Peter Dinklage is the star and there’s no mention of his achondroplasia. Where he’s the boss. Where he’s just a regular flawed human. Where he gets the girl. Where he’s cast as you would cast any other actor, and treated like the extremely talented mofo that he is.

After his deserved Emmy win for Game of Thrones, Dinklage should have his pick of roles -- just like any other actor would.

Winter is Coming,

Gaby Dunn

Categories: Features, Geek
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