The curious case of Peter Dinklage, dwarfism and a rumored Filipino identity that won’t go away

‘Game of Thrones’ actor Peter Dinklage

By Cristina DC Pastor

Full disclosure here.  The two main characters in this little story are not Filipino but one of them was long rumored to be Pinoy until his suicide in 1993: American actor Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones” fame; and deceased French actor Hervé Villechaize who played the dapper and diminutive butler in “Fantasy Island.”

Both gentlemen suffer from a genetic condition called dwarfism where a person has a height of 4’10” or less and some parts of the body, like the limbs, are shorter. In the Philippines, we call them “unano,” to mean short people. The term “midget” is now considered politically incorrect. The Little People of America (LPA) support group says the M word is usually associated with “freak shows.”

The multi-awarded Dinklage and the Paris-born Villechaize are probably two of the most famous Hollywood actors known to play memorable character roles because of their height. But Villechaize’s acting arc would be short-lived. The “man with the golden gun” (title of a Bond film where he has a prominent role) took his life with a gun in 1993. It’s not one but many issues that may have pushed him to pull the trigger — failed relationships, money, disenchantment with his acting career, a distant mother, just a joyless little person trying to navigate the complicated film industry.

Peter plays Herve

When Dinklage was cast to play Villechaize in the 2018 HBO’s “My Dinner with Herve (based on Villechaize’s interview with journalist Danny Tate),” there was social media pushback: Why would Dinklage, an American, be cast as Villechaize when Herve is a Filipino, the protest seeming to bemoan accusations of “whitewashing.”  

Herve Villechaize playing the servant Tattoo in ‘Fantasy Island,’ Peter Dinklage playing Herve

Not too many Filipinos have heard of this. When I asked around, they were telling me: I didn’t know! Who’s Herve?

Dinklage set the record straight, albeit sounding annoyed that this bit of misleading trivia has been circulating and is still being repeated to this day: Villechaize is French; he is not a Filipino (or half Filipino).

He said: “Hervé wasn’t Filipino… I’ve met his brother and other members of his family. He was French, and of German and English descent. So, it’s strange these people are saying he’s Filipino… Everybody I met – his brother, his girlfriend, people who worked with him – said he was ‘so proud’…If [being Filipino] was part of his heritage he would have been very proud of that.”

Dinklage blames the confusion on Villechaize’s Wikipedia entry. A check with the page does not show that detail anymore. The LPA estimates there could be about 30,000 Americans with dwarfism, and 651,700 in the world.

Dinklage finds himself at the center of dwarf people’s anger when he blasted Disney’s remake of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”  “…You’re still making that fucking backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together?”

Other dwarf actors said the “Game of Thrones millionaire” does not speak for them.

Wonder what Herve would have said.  

PS: There was a very popular watering hole in Manila called Hobbit House where the staff and servers were mostly little people. It was a favorite spot, among foreigners, including foreign journalists, looking for cheap beers, women, and rooms.  I heard it closed in 2018.

VP LENI ROBREDO interview with Boy Abunda CLICK HERE

© The FilAm 2022

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