peter dinklage - dwarf actor in hollywood

Re-blogged from my post in Bristol’s Inter:Mission…

In Hollywood there are many actors fighting for good roles who can claim to be looking up at a glass ceiling. These actors are all competing with the archaic image of the ‘tall dark and handsome white male’. Life to these actors is like living in a never-ending episode of Mad Men, with Don Draper look-a-likes at every turning. In the late 1950s, Sidney Poitier helped blaze a trail for young African American actors, by approaching the stereotypical roles offered to him with a manner of dignity and intelligence, chipping away at the bamboozling minstrel shows that preceded his generation, and finally winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1963 for Lilies of the Field. Debates about equal opportunity in cinema have extended to gender and sexuality, but perhaps the most over-looked and marginalized group is that of little people who are dwarf actors.

We constantly hear about the diminishing number of roles for older woman or the lack of leading roles for black actors, but not much is said about the struggles little people face when the only roles on offer are the choice between playing an elf or a leprechaun. As a little person you could spend years studying at a prestigious drama school and still be treated like an amateur in panto season, which is probably the point were most would just give up on their dreams. Dwarf actor Mark Povinelli, who appears in one of the Snow White adaptations this year called Mirror Mirror, reflects on his own experiences with the roles he’s been offered:

They’re usually obnoxious. I flick through to what page I’m going to be on and … ‘Oh look! Biting someone on the ankle! Or punching someone in the balls!’ … The trick is to be one step ahead of them. You can’t just say, ‘I don’t like this’, you have to come up with an idea that is better. [The Guardian]

Count how many dwarf actors you can name and chances are you’ll only get as far a Warwick Davis. Davis who is fast becoming a house-hold name, thanks in part to Ricky Gervais’s TV series Life’s Too Short, has exemplified the spirit of Poitier and decided to lead the way for little people in the film industry. As well as acting, Davis manages a talent agency for little people – making sure that his actors are protected and treated with the respect they deserve. Warwick Davis is by no means an actor of the same caliber as say De Niro, Day-Lewis or Fassbender, but he is making a huge impact on the film industry that will serve future generations of little people well. There is however, one actor who does meet that calibre. Enter Peter Dinklage…

Since making his debut in 2003’s Independent Spirit Award winning film The Station Agent, Dinklage has proven he’s a worthy actor to be considered in that highly regarded bracket. Recently he made the move to cable TV for HBO’s Game of Thrones where once again he wowed the critics, winning both the Emmy and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor,  earning him the top billing spot for season 2 of the show and making him the most likely candidate to win an Oscar in the near future. The last time a little person came close to that glory, was in 1965 when Michael Dunn was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Ship of Fools.

Dinklage’s career will be an exiting one to watch and if there’s any doubt in his commitment to becoming a role model and trailblazer for fellow dwarf actors, you only need to watch his acceptance speech for the Golden Globe when he finished off with a request for everyone to google an actor named ‘Martin Henderson‘, a little person who was assaulted, when he was picked up by an unknown man outside a pub and dropped to the floor, resulting in severe injury. There might not be many more roles out there for dwarf actors, it’ll take some time to change, but with Davis and Dinklage leading the way, you can be sure that Hollywood will never be the same again.


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