General Question

KatawaGrey's avatar

How often are actors with Dwarfism cast as characters who do not need to be dwarves or little people?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21433points) January 11th, 2012

I’m watching The Station Agent currently because Peter Dinklage is one of my favorite actors. The description of the movie, both on imdb and Hulu, mentions that the character he plays has Dwarfism and, I’m only 5 minutes into the movie and his height has been mentioned/noticed 3 times. It occurred to me that the only time I have seen an actor with Dwarfism cast in a role regardless of size was when Peter Dinklage was in Threshold, a short-lived sci-fi series in which he played a math and language specialist though I may be misremembering the math part.

Except for this instance, every other time I’ve seen an actor with Dwarfism, they have been cast specifically in a role because they have this condition. Are there any other examples of one of these actors being cast in a role where it was not necessary for the character to be a Dwarf?

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18 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Not really trying to make a pun, but it seems like dwarfs cast in mainstream film and TV generally have small roles. By that I mean that they are almost NEVER in a leading role or even a supporting role – they are a side character, sometimes a maguffin, but almost never carry the lead.

As for Station Agent – worst. movie. ever.

Had nothing to do with Dinklage or his size. It had ZERO plot and was completely uninteresting to me.

cazzie's avatar

I LOVED The Station Agent. GREAT movie and the first time I saw and fell in love with Peter Dinklage. He has a rather major role in Game of Thrones and is brilliant in it.

Wasn’t there a woman lawyer in a TV series for a while who was small? That was a pretty strong supporting role, I believe, and nothing magauffin about it. Here she is… (Family Law and more recently Boston Legal)

Thanks for reminding me of Threshold. I had almost forgotten that. I was bummed when it disappeared.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Was HervĂ© Villechaize’s role as Tattoo on Fantasy Island dependent on his stature in any way? It’s possible that they cast him for that reason, but I’m not sure if it was ever a story element.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@elbanditoroso: But how many of those actors were cast based on being dwarves?

@cazzie: Just finished Station Agent. Once again, Peter Dinklage proves himself to be one of the great actors of our time.

@SavoirFaire: I don’t know. That is an interesting question and a good distinction to make. Are some dwarves cast for that reason even if the script doesn’t call for it? Now I’m wondering how many are cast in roles and then the scripts modified to include details about their height/condition.

janbb's avatar

Loved The Station Agent and Peter Dinklage in it. It’s funny but I don’t particularly remember mention of his dwarfism but I’m sure you’re right.

Same could be said of fat actors too, I think.

Seelix's avatar

I don’t have an answer to your question, but I do wonder this: are all characters that are played by little people conceived as little people before they’re cast? Or could it be that, sometimes, a little person is cast and his stature is written into the role?

I’ve only ever seen Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones, but I think he’s amazing and that no one could portray Tyrion Lannister better – whether the character or actor had dwarfism or not.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There’s that professor on Harry Potter but HP isn’t such a great example as these are non-human beings, apparently…like goblins or have dwarf blood in them…there’s Lassater on Game of Thrones but his height is always an issue.

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KatawaGrey's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: I think Flitwick is described as being small in the books, but I can’t remember. I do plan on re-reading the books again so I will let you know. In the books, quite a big deal is made out of Tyrion Lannister having been born a dwarf. His powerful ugliness is also mentioned quite a lot in the books, but Peter Dinklage could hardly qualify as powerfully ugly, in my opinion. ;)

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SavoirFaire's avatar

Flitwick is frequently described as short in the books.

SuperMouse's avatar

Forgive me for showing my age here. I believe that Billy Barty was cast in some movies where his dwarfism was not essential to the role. According to his IMDB bio he also hosted a children’s show in Los Angeles which I am sure had to do more with his charm and warmth than his stature. Of course mostly his roles catered to his size.

filmfann's avatar

Peter Dinkage had the same role in 2 versions of “Death at a Funeral”, and there were very few references to his size. I actually thought that wasn’t realistic, since it is something that gets mentioned.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@filmfann: It is natural for size to get mentioned when someone is an odd size, whether they are very short or very tall my best friend is 6’7 and it’s one of our main topics conversation :P but I think far too many of these actors are so limited purely because of their size. I would like to see more of these actors cast in roles where they are assessed based only on their acting skills and then have the script modified to mention it enough to be realistic.

In The Station Agent, it was not necessary for the role to be played by a dwarf, but the script was obviously written for a dwarf actor. I think that’s too bad because there are a number of dwarf and little people actors who are incredibly talented but who are severely limited. I think that’s too bad.

Seelix's avatar

Flitwick is a goblin, and goblins in the Potterverse are indeed little. The character was played by Warwick Davis (who was also an Ewok!). Fun fact: the bank is run by goblins, and one of the goblins was played by Verne Troyer (best known as Mini-Me).

Also, @KatawaGrey – I have a huge crush on Peter Dinklage!

YARNLADY's avatar

You could ask the same question of every actor. Are parts written for blonds only, for men/women only, for tall or short or fat? It’s definitely a talent agent’s nightmare.

6rant6's avatar

I don’t think you can know. People who get cast change the character during the audition process. It’s impossible not to begin to think of the character as looking like the actor. If the actor has some unusual attribute – 7 ft, 3 ft, 38 inches – we begin to think of the character that way. So it would be unreasonable to expect the character not to encounter some of the problems or at least situations that a person of that shape and size would encounter.

So probably the more telling question would be, if this actor you like were to be put up for a part NOT expected to be small, would the casting director or director give them a “fair” audition. It is an interesting question. The answer is probably no for the same reason that unattractive people seldom are read seriously. Most people want to see people they are attracted to playing the major roles. I’m not advocating that position, but I think it’s clear that’s how it works.

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