Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage has hit back at claims that his new movie, My Dinner with Hervé, whitewashes the titular character.
The HBO film follows the final days of Hervé Villechaize, a dwarf actor who starred in the Fantasy Island series and James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.
Dinklage spent more than a decade trying to get the film made, but is now facing outrage from Twitter users who claims Villechaize was half-Filipino and that Dinklage is ‘taking his turn at yellowface’.
The criticism has been especially baffling to Dinklage, who says that the French-born Villechaize was not Filipino at all and that the rumor first started on Wikipedia.
Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage has hit back at claims that his new movie, My Dinner with Hervé, whitewashes the titular character
The HBO film follows the final days of Hervé Villechaize (pictured in 1984), a dwarf actor who starred in the Fantasy Island series and James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun
‘The internet is the best thing and the worst thing,’ Dinklage told Entertainment Weekly.
‘The funny thing about the backlash is it addresses what we address in the film about not judging a book by its cover.’
‘Hervé was judged by how he looked, and cast and perceived to be who he is accordingly.’
Dinklage said he has met a number of Villachaize’s family members, who said he was of French, German, and English descent.
‘It’s strange these people are saying he’s Filipino,’ Dinklage said. ‘They kind of don’t have any information.’
‘I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes or sense of justice because I feel the exact same way when there’s some weird racial profile.’
Dinklage spent more than a decade trying to get the film made, but is now facing outrage from Twitter users who claims Villechaize was half-Filipino
Critics took to Twitter to claim that Villechaize was half-Filipino, but Dinklage said they learned false information on Wikipedia
‘But these people think they’re doing the right thing politically and morally and it’s actually getting flipped, because what they’re doing is judging and assuming what he is ethnically based on his looks alone.’
Dinklage pointed out that Villachaize had a ‘very unique face’ due to his dwarfism, adding that ‘people have to be very careful with this stuff’.
‘This movie isn’t Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ he said, noting the controversial decision to have white actor Mickey Rooney play the Asian landlord I. Y. Yunioshi in the film.
‘Personally I would never do that, and I haven’t done that, because he wasn’t,’ Dinklage added.
‘People are jumping to conclusions based on a man’s appearance alone, and that saddens me.’
Dinklage said Villachaize was an incredibly proud man, and if he was Filipino he would have been ‘very proud’ and outspoken about that as well.
Dinklage said he has met a number of Villachaize’s family members, who said he was of French, German, and English descent and claims the Twitter users don’t have ‘any information’
‘Hervé would be laughing at this right now, and part of me is too,’ he said.
‘But when I start to be accused of things that are not truthful and not real, that’s when you want to say, “Okay, calm down”‘.
In the eighties, Villechaize was the most famous actor with dwarfism in America.
He couldn’t walk down the street without people yelling ‘De plane, de plane!’ – his famous line from Fantasy Island – and landed a number of major Hollywood roles.
Villechaize was set on breaking stereotypes surrounding dwarfs, even carrying a business card that read ‘I am not available for Santa’s helper, baby New Year, elves’.
‘He didn’t take any prisoners,’ Dinklage said. ‘He knew who he was and embraced it fully.’
Dinklage began discussing the film 14 years ago, but ran into numerous obstacles as Hollywood execs questioned why a film about Villechaize should be made in the first place
In the eighties, Villechaize was the most famous actor with dwarfism in America thanks to his role on Fantasy Island (pictured)
But things eventually took a turn for the worse after Villechaize got fired from Fantasy Island for demanding equal pay with his co-star Ricardo Montalbán.
His hard-partying ways were catching up with him, and Villechaize was also suffering from constant physical pain due to his dwarfism. He committed suicide in 1993.
Sacha Gervasi, the writer and director of My Dinner with Hervé, spent three days with the actor just before his death.
Gervasi and Dinklage began talking about the film 14 years ago, but ran into numerous obstacles as Hollywood execs questioned why a film about Villechaize should be made in the first place.
But HBO finally came through, and Dinklage said the network was the ‘perfect place’ for the film about a man who was both complicated and adored.
Now Dinklage is hoping the film will help a whole new generation of people learn about Villechaize and his legacy – without reading erroneous Wikipedia pages.
‘You never know who you’re sitting next to, what secrets they have, who they are, what their pasts are comprised of,’ Dinklage said.
‘You might think you know, but you don’t.’