Johnny Depp. Leonardo DiCaprio. Peter Dinklage? How the Game of Thrones star has defied expectations for dwarf actors.
List your five favourite actors, and the likelihood is that it will consist of the usual: Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio and the hundreds of other actors that grace these personal lists because of their talent or their looks. You can take a good guess most of these lists won’t contain a dwarf actor.
Before 2011, it was hard to come by a dwarf actor who didn’t have a career solely as the butt of a film’s jokes, or dressing up as some fictional creature or another. Kenny Baker, Warwick Davis and Verne Troyer are all dwarf actors who have been hired to fit these roles. And that is no criticism of their stature or their acting abilities, but rather a criticism of what the general public expect: Mini Me’s, R2-D2′s and Professor Flitwicks.
Before 2011, it was hard to come by a dwarf actor who didn’t have a career solely as the butt of a film’s jokes
Then comes 2011, and the long-awaited release of Game of Thrones arrives, with names like Sean Bean, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage leading the show. But wait – Dinklage is actually playing a joke-free, flamboyant, make up-free part. And the first season of Game of Thrones comes and goes, and it’s Dinklage with the Golden Globe, Dinklage stealing the show, Dinklage breaking the streak of stereotypical dwarf roles and actually being credited for his acting prowess. By the second season, Peter Dinklage is the face of Game of Thrones and the highest paid actor in the show, and he has quickly worked his way into your list of favourite actors. And not to forget quite possibly the first person to be dubbed a ‘DwILF‘, a fitting acronym we can all agree.
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But even before Game of Thrones, Dinklage had caught the attention of film critics, notably so in Thomas McCarthy’s The Station Agent, a comedy-drama film that, amongst other things, demonstrated the prejudice that dwarves are subject to in their day-to-day life, and the effects it can have on their trust of society. Dinklage’s portrayal of Finbar McBride didn’t let you forget the struggle that his character was going through. But that was through his brilliant, withdrawn and seemingly cold depiction of Finbar, rather than just because he happens to be a dwarf. It was Peter Dinklage’s ability to remain sympathetic that truly first set him apart as an actor of talent, and not just a dwarf cast for comic relief.
It was Peter Dinklage’s ability to remain sympathetic that truly first set him apart
After the international fame gained by playing the charismatic Tyrion Lannister, Dinklage lent his voice to the villain of Ice Age: Continental Drift, Captain Gutt. But even this character, a ‘Gigantopithecus’, a nine-foot tall ape leading the crew of a pirate ship, is breaking the mould of what is expected of dwarf actors. Here, Dinklage is not seen on screen. But that’s because he is not wanted at the expense of his stature, but rather for his voice talent and the added publicity the film would receive with Peter Dinklage in the credits.
With the third season of Game of Thrones wrapped up, earning Peter Dinklage another Emmy nomination, and his casting as Bolivar Trask in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, it’s clear that Dinklage is not about to be pushed to the side lines. Bagging the role of the villainous threat in a film full of super-powered mutants speaks volumes about Dinklage’s screen presence, but both his involvement in X-Men, and his position as arguably the most heroic character in Game of Thrones, have influenced the way that the public view dwarf actors. Maybe, just maybe, Peter Dinklage has left a path for other actors to follow, where dwarves are the heroes, and not just the jesters.
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Featured image: HBO
Inset image: SenArt Films