Dan Kois, who I had the pleasure of hanging out with at SXSW, has a flat-out fantastic profile of Peter Dinklage in the New York Times Magazine this weekend, just in time for the return of Game of Thrones (I’ll hopefully have a comprehensive review tomorrow as long as my screeners are there when I get home) on Sunday. What makes it so good is not just that Dinklage is a wonderful actor and an interesting person, but that it’s a great explication of what happens when an actor refuses to take roles that compromise his dignity, a conundrum that’s applicable not only to people of short stature. Kois writes:
Dinklage’s sudden stardom offers a pleasurable meritocratic twist to his career, given that the entertainment industry doesn’t typically reward those who turn down roles on principle, much less actors who don’t meet a certain physical ideal. Sure, James Gandolfini struggled before “The Sopranos” made him an unlikely leading man. But James Gandolfini didn’t eat potato chips for dinner every night because he conscientiously objected to playing one of Santa’s elves in Kmart ads…Dinklage stayed in New York and soon was landing stage work and the occasional low-budget film. But he couldn’t book commercial jobs, because he wasn’t interested in the kinds of roles that paid well for dwarves. Specifically, he wouldn’t play elves or leprechauns. Even after Dinklage’s memorable first film role in the 1995 Steve Buscemi indie comedy “Living in Oblivion” — Dinklage played an actor who’s annoyed to be cast in a dream sequence, demanding, “Have you ever had a dream with a dwarf in it?” — he still couldn’t get an agent. “Word got out,” he says. “I started to build up a resentment. And that fueled my desire to live in a cold apartment and be like: ‘I don’t need you! I’m gonna write poetry. Why would I want to be a member of your club if you don’t want me?’”
Standing up to that kind of commercial and financial pressure must be tremendously difficult, and knowing that he did it makes me admire Dinklage even more than I already do. Mark Povinelli, the actor with dwarfism who played Chelsea (Laura Prepon)’s coworker Todd on the otherwise-awful Are You There, Chelsea? joked in a recent episode that Dinklage hogs all the roles for devastatingly handsome men of short stature. But the fact that Todd’s character exists at all, and exists as something other than a joke, is probably attributable in part to Dinklage’s success. It’s hard to think of an actor who’s as clearly opened a previously-closed door in recent years.
On a less serious note, Colin McEnroe was kind enough to have me, Lev Grossman, and a couple other folks on his show this afternoon to talk about the resonance of A Song of Ice and Fire. Audio, including my dorky confessions about writing Star Wars fan fiction, is up now. I imagine y’all are as excited as I am.