“My size does not define me”Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage can currently be seen fighting alien invaders in the sci-fi comedy, Pixels. But the 46 year old has gone through the school of hard knocks to get to where he is, and plenty of canned soup as well.
THE RED BULLETIN: You caught Hollywood’s attention in 2003’s The Station Agent, but it is only now through Game of Thrones that your talents are finally being appreciated. Do you wish this recognition had come a little earlier?
PETER DINKLAGE: I don’t know. I’m not sure how well-equipped I would have been to handle notoriety or recognition at such a young age. I am not sure if I would have had the constitution for it. It is always good to have time to prove yourself, and to mature as a person rather than having life served on a silver platter for you. I have always worked very hard at being an actor, and I don’t do it for any recognition, or God forbid fame. I just love the work, so I am glad it came a little later.
You have stuck to your principles in terms of turning down certain roles. Did you always believe that this would eventually pay off?
No. I thought I was going to be eating canned soup for the rest of my life to be honest. You just want to feel comfortable with who you are at the end of the day, if you can. I worked a variety of other jobs to supplement my income at the time. I’d rather be doing that than working on certain acting jobs. It’s important to say no, especially earlier in your career, because life is short and you want to be proud of things that you have done, not ashamed of them. I was always attracted to great writing and storytelling. I turned down a lot of stuff because the writing was limited, especially for people my size. There was always a lack of imagination in terms of character – the size was defining the role. But my size does not define me, It is just part of who I am. So why should it define a character?
So how do you survive in this business?
You fight. The struggle feeds your hunger, and it makes you fight harder to get better. That is a key factor at the beginning of your career. I just wish I had as much hunger and fight in me now as I did back then. But I have other priorities now. It was okay to be broke back then, but not anymore.
Because you have a family to feed?
Exactly. But they’ll be fine. They can take care of themselves. My wife is a theater director after all. She is definitely the artist of the family.
And you are?
I am just the TV actor that pays the bills.
Has your celebrity status changed you?
No, I am still the same person, paddling hard, trying to keep my head above water. I can’t say I would recommend being famous though. Everything is done for you. You don’t even need to make your own coffee in the morning.
You haven’t changed, but what about the world around you?
When you are on a TV show, there is automatically a target on your back. Part of the reason I used to love New York was the anonymity factor. I am 4 and a half feet tall, but nobody looked twice at me. But now they look twice because I am on a TV show. I miss the anonymity. I also miss the good old days, when people went “I wish I had a camera.“ Now everyone has a camera!
So your recommendation is: Don’t become a star?
That is perhaps too harsh. I admit that it is a bit of a bourgeois problem when you come to think about it. I just enjoy my private life and my peace. When I want to recharge my batteries I go to my house in the woods and take care of my plants. Or I meet friends for a glass of good wine. These are things to strive for.
But your popularity also has its honorable advantages. At the Golden Globes you reminded the audience of the fate of the dwarf-tossing victim, Martin Henderson. Do you feel comfortable as a spokesperson in such matters?
No, and I don’t want to be. I am only an actor. There are people that are much better equipped for this, be it politicians or activists. It was not my intention to talk about it, but my wife was reading about the incident online as we were on our way to the Golden Globes, and then right before I went on stage she told me to say something about it. So it was on my mind as I walked up, and then it just popped out. The world is a f**ked up place sometimes, and we shouldn’t have to accept that. If I can do something to increase awareness and make the world a little bit of a better place, then great, I’m all for it. But there are other people that do it much better than I do.
People seem to have become much more tolerant and open to diversity when somebody looks different. How have you experienced that?
Exactly. There is a different definition of the leading man now. It’s fantastic. You look at the leading men of the past and now – and they are very different. Hollywood is finally opening the door wider to more realistic portrayals of who people are.