By Cathy Anderson
Peter Dinklage may be short in stature, but he’s not short on status. The American actor is in the eye of the perfect career storm.
As Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones — arguably the most hyped TV show of the past decade — and with a pivotal role in the latest X-Men action blockbuster, Dinklage seems unstoppable. Some would even say he’s tipped past the cusp of cult status.
His confident performance as the clever, conniving yet compassionate familial outcast Tyrion endears him to millions who may not have caught a glimpse of him in arthouse films The Station Agent and Death at a Funeral. And yet he confesses his biggest challenge is overcoming himself.
“I have first-day jitters on everything I do,” he tells mX about his first day on the set of X-Men: Days of Future Past.
“I’m like, ‘Why am I here? I’m so insecure, this is bullshit. I’m a horrible actor’. You’re coming into something that’s a really high quality, popular franchise and being the newbie.
“All these guys have experience with it and familiarity with each other and proven their moxy, so you just hope and pray that you don’t bring that all crashing down.
“Then you start to get in the flow of things working with the other actors and you get back on the bike.”
“I was sort of a mess when I was young. Hopefully I know who I am at this point and I am not having other people figure it out for me.”
Dinklage, born with a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, has struggled to find a footing in an industry where actors of his size are considered novelty, not serious.
But although he has proven that size doesn’t matter, at nearly 45 years of age Dinklage says he’s glad success has come later in life.
“I am fortunate enough to work with some young people and they just seem so much more grounded than I was at that age and dealing with the success and the attention and being paid handsomely,” he says of his Game of Thrones and X-Men peers.
“I’m not sure I would have been able to do that. I was sort of a mess when I was young. Hopefully I know who I am at this point and I am not having other people figure it out for me.”
His casting as scientist Dr Bolivar Trask in X- Men: Days of Future Past is, in many ways, Hollywood seeing him for who he really is — an incredible actor.
Not quite mad and not quite truly evil, Trask admires yet fears the mutant population and develops an army of mutant-detecting Sentinels to unite humans and create “world peace”.
What he doesn’t foresee is that his army — perfected thanks to the camouflaging abilities stolen from mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) — will obliterate society and turn Earth into a bleak, dark world akin to those of The Terminator and The Matrix.
“Part of the appeal of these movies is all of us — no matter if you’re a dwarf or whatever, even if you’re seemingly perfect — at one point in your life you have felt like an outsider. Whether race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, whatever it is — feeling left out.”
It forces frenemies Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Eric Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen) to unite and send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to the 1970s to prevent the war and stop Trask in his, well, tracks. Dinklage says the film’s theme of social isolation is a huge part of its allure and, while Trask wasn’t written as a dwarfed character in the original comics, the actor’s size is very much front and centre.
“Trask feels like an outsider given his size because I am playing the part and I am my size and we do address that,” he says.
“And I felt like an outsider and I’ve had to struggle as well and that’s how I approached it. But it’s part of the appeal of these movies is all of us — no matter if you’re a dwarf or whatever, even if you’re seemingly perfect — at one point in your life you have felt like an outsider. Whether race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, whatever it is — feeling left out.”
“Having felt like that myself I think that’s one of the reasons why Bryan (director Bryan Singer) was interested in me playing the role, although we don’t cram it down people’s throats.”
Dinklage sees Trask as neither a villain nor a misguided theorist — he’s a product of history. “Trask is a war profiteer. Yes, he’s definitely going to save mankind but he’s not altruistic — he has a financial motive,” Dinklage says. “But there’s nothing different than what always happens throughout the course of human history.
“Everybody who’s proposing war is proposing it for the good: us against them — we are the good guys, they are the bad guys.
“What’s interesting in this is that the mutants are the good guys.”
This article originally appeared in mX newspaper