Peter Hayden Dinklage (;feet 5 inches (135 cm) tall. He began acting as a child in a fifth-grade production of The Velveteen Rabbit. He studied acting at Bennington College, starring in a number of amateur stage productions. His film debut was in Living in Oblivion (1995) and his breakthrough came with the comedy-drama The Station Agent (2003). He has since appeared in such films as the comedy Elf (2003), the crime film Find Me Guilty (2006), the superhero comedy Underdog (2007), the fantasy film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008), the superhero film X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), and the acclaimed black comedy film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017).
Since 2011, Dinklage has portrayed Tyrion Lannister in the HBO series Game of Thrones, which has earned him the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2011 and 2015, as well as receiving consecutive Emmy nominations from 2011 to 2016. He also won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film in 2012. Dinklage is one of the highest paid actors on television.
Peter Hayden Dinklage was born on June 11, 1969, in Morristown, New Jersey, to John Carl Dinklage (1931–2004), an insurance salesman, and Diane Dinklage (b. 1943), an elementary-school music teacher. He was born with achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism. Dinklage grew up as the only dwarf in his family in Brookside, New Jersey, with his parents and older brother, Jonathan. He is of German and Irish descent. As a child, Dinklage and his brother performed puppet musicals for people in their neighborhood. Dinklage has described his brother, who is a violinist, as being the “real performer of the family”, saying that his brother’s passion for the violin was the only thing that kept him from pursuing acting.
Dinklage had his first theatrical success in a fifth-grade production of The Velveteen Rabbit. Playing the lead, he was delighted by the audience’s response to the show. Dinklage attended Delbarton School, a Catholic preparatory school for boys, where he developed his acting. In 1984, Dinklage was inspired by a production of the play True West, written by American playwright Sam Shepard, to pursue a career in acting.
Dinklage then attended Bennington College, where he studied for a drama degree and also appeared in numerous productions before graduating in 1991. After that he moved to New York City with his friend Ian Bell to build a theater company. Failing to pay the rent, they moved out of their apartment. Dinklage then worked at a data processing company for six years before pursuing a career as a full-time actor.
Early career (1991–2002)
Dinklage initially struggled to find work as an actor, partially because he refused to take the roles typically offered to actors with his condition, such as “elves or leprechauns”. He made his credited film debut in the low-budget independent comedy-drama Living in Oblivion (1995) where he performed alongside Steve Buscemi. The film tells the story of a director, crew, and cast filming a low-budget independent film in the middle of New York City. Dinklage’s role was that of a frustrated actor with dwarfism who complains about his clichéd roles. The film has been well received by critics. The following year he appeared as a building manager in the crime drama Bullet starring rapper Tupac Shakur. Even after his well-received performance in Living in Oblivion, Dinklage still could not find someone willing to be his agent. After a recommendation from Buscemi to the director Alexandre Rockwell, Dinklage was cast in the comedy 13 Moons (2002). When later interviewed for a theater website, he was asked what his ideal role was, and he replied “the romantic lead” who gets the girl.
Dinklage found his breakthrough playing Finbar McBride, who is a quiet, withdrawn, unmarried man in the 2003 Tom McCarthy-directed film The Station Agent. According to co-star Bobby Cannavale, the film took three years to make and was not at first written with Dinklage in mind, Cannavale said McCarthy “set out to tell a story about a guy who was a train enthusiast who had chosen to isolate himself from the world”, but when McCarthy actually started “putting pen to paper” for the screenplay he decided to write the role for him. Speaking about the role, Dinklage noted that usually “roles written for someone my size are a little flat”—often either comical or “sort of Lord of the Rings” type characters filled with wisdom; further: “They’re not sexual, they’re not romantic” and “they’re not flawed”. What attracted him to the character McCarthy had written was that it was not one of the stereotypical roles people with dwarfism play; rather, McBride has “romantic feelings” as well as “anger and … flaws”. The role earned him the Independent Spirit Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor nominations. In the New York Observer, reviewer Andrew Sarris wrote, “Dinklage projects both size and intelligence in the fascinating reticence of his face.” Besides being Dinklage’s highest-rated film on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Station Agent was modestly successful at the box office, earning over $8 million against its small budget.
Dinklage later appeared in the direct-to-DVD film Tiptoes (2003) with Gary Oldman and Matthew McConaughey. The film met with negative reviews, particularly Oldman’s role as a person with dwarfism. According to Dinklage, the original cut of the film was “gorgeous”, but the director was fired shortly after turning it in, and the film was re-cut into a “rom-com with dwarves”. Speaking on the Oldman controversy, Dinklage said, “There was some flak: Why would you put Gary Oldman on his knees? That’s almost like blackface. And I have my own opinions about political correctness, but I was just like, It’s Gary Oldman. He can do whatever he wants, and I’m so happy to be here.”
That year, Dinklage also starred in several Off-Broadway productions, such as Richard III. Dinklage appeared in the Christmas comedy film Elf as Miles Finch, an irritable children’s author who beats up Buddy Hobbs (Will Ferrell) after he mistakes him for an elf. In 2005, he starred in the short-lived CBS science fiction series Threshold and appeared as a wedding planner in the comedy film The Baxter. He also made an appearance in the adventure comedy-drama Lassie as a traveling circus performer. The film received highly positive reviews, though it did not fare well at the box office.
In 2006, Dinklage co-starred with Vin Diesel in Find Me Guilty, a courtroom drama directed by Sidney Lumet. The film tells the true story of the longest Mafia trial in American history; Dinklage played Ben Klandis, the lead defense attorney. Critical reaction to the film was mostly positive, though it was a commercial failure. Writing for Chicago Sun-Times, film critic Roger Ebert praised Dinklage’s performance, saying that the character he plays stands apart as “concise, articulate and professional”. The same year, he portrayed the character Marlowe Sawyer in episodes of Nip/Tuck. He played a fictionalized version of himself in an episode of the HBO series Entourage and appeared in NBC‘s 30 Rock as Stuart. The same year, Dinklage appeared in the British romantic comedy Penelope playing Lemon, a tabloid reporter. The film received mixed reviews from critics.
Dinklage appeared in the 2007 British comedy film Death at a Funeral, reprising the role in the 2010 American remake; the films tell the story of a family trying to deal with a variety of issues after the death of their father. Later in 2007, he played the villainous Simon Bar Sinister in Underdog, which was poorly received but had some commercial success.
Dinklage played Trumpkin in the 2008 film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The movie was a box office disappointment, with global revenues of $419.7 million, although film critic Bill Gibron described Dinklage’s role as a “cutesy stereotype he has tried to avoid”. Later that year, he played the title role in Uncle Vanya (directed by his wife, Erica Schmidt) in Bard College‘s annual Bard SummerScape, the Upstate New York summer stage on the Annandale-on-Hudson campus. In 2010, he appeared in the Australian movie I Love You Too alongside Brendan Cowell and Peter Helliar.
Mainstream and critical success (2011–present)
Since 2011, Dinklage has played Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones, an adaptation of author George R. R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Game of Thrones takes place on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos and chronicles the power struggles among noble families as they fight for control of the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion is a member of House Lannister, one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the fictional kingdom of Westeros, who uses his status as a Lannister to mitigate the impact of the marginalization and derision he has received all of his life. In May 2009, he was the first actor to be cast, as showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss noted that Dinklage, whom he described as funny, smart and witty, was their first choice for the role, as the actor’s “core of humanity, covered by a shell of sardonic dry wit, is pretty well in keeping with the character”. Unfamiliar with the source material, Dinklage was cautious in his first meeting with the producers; as a dwarf, “he wouldn’t play elves or leprechauns” and was choosy about genre roles. Benioff and Weiss told Dinklage that the character was “a different kind of fantasy little person”, or in the actor’s words, “No beard, no pointy shoes, a romantic, real human being.” Dinklage signed on to play Tyrion before the meeting was half over, in part because, he said, “They told me how popular he was.” Martin said of Dinklage’s casting, “If he hadn’t accepted the part, oh, boy, I don’t know what we would have done.” The series proved to be a commercial success; it has been renewed for multiple seasons and will conclude with its eighth season in 2018.
Dinklage has received widespread praise for his performance, with Matthew Gilbert from The Boston Globe saying that Dinklage “gives a winning performance that is charming, morally ambiguous, and self-aware”. Dan Kois of The New York Times noted that Dinklage’s performance has made the character “all the more popular”. The Los Angeles Times wrote “In many ways, Game of Thrones belongs to Dinklage”. Tyrion has been called the “most quotable” character and “one of the most beloved characters” of the series. For his performance, he has gone on to win a Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2011 and 2015, as well as the 2012 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. As a result of his performance and increased screen time, Dinklage was given top billing starting in the series’ second season. In 2014, he said on The Late Show with David Letterman that he had once tried to read the books the show is based upon, but had found them confusing. He joked, “George Martin, our author, is probably going to kill my character soon because I mentioned that.” In 2014, Dinklage and four of his Game of Thrones co-stars became some of the highest paid actors on television, although sources differ on the actors’ per-episode salaries as of 2017. In 2015, Dinklage lent his voice for the role of Tyrion in Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, an episodic graphic adventure video game based on the show.
In 2012, Dinklage voiced Captain Gutt in Ice Age: Continental Drift, which earned over $877 million—his highest grossing release as of 2016. Dinklage has said that because this was his first voiceover role, he prepared himself by making sure to rest his voice before the recording sessions, and that he prefers doing roles he has not done before. After appearing in an episode of NBC‘s late-night sketch comedy Saturday Night Live in 2013, Dinklage hosted an episode of the show in April 2016; his appearances included a sketch of him and Gwen Stefani singing a new song called called “Space Pants”. He received praise for his performance.
In 2014, Dinklage starred in the comedy horror film Knights of Badassdom opposite Ryan Kwanten and Steve Zahn. The film is about three best friends that go to the woods and reenact a live action Dungeons & Dragons role play, when they mistakenly conjure up a demon from Hell. The same year, he played the villain Bolivar Trask in the superhero film X-Men: Days of Future Past. The movie was the sixth highest-grossing film of 2014 with global revenues of $747.9 million. In preparation for his role, Dinklage stated that he did not want to approach the character necessarily as a villain, saying that Trask “actually sees what he’s doing as a good thing”. He also voiced the AI Ghost in the 2014 video game Destiny, but was replaced by Nolan North in August 2015.
In 2015, Dinklage starred in the science fiction comedy film Pixels as a former arcade champion named Eddie Plant, which was poorly received by critics. The movie had a global revenues of $244.9 million. In 2016, Dinklage provided the voice of The Mighty Eagle in The Angry Birds Movie, and recorded a song for the musical’s soundtrack. The film went on to become the second highest-grossing video game film of all-time, with a global revenues of $349.8 million, only behind Warcraft ($433.5 million). It also became the most successful Finnish film to date. His next release, the independent film Rememory (2017), failed to impress reviewers, but his role of Sam Bloom was praised. Freelance film critic Yasmin Kleinbart stated that “Dinklage deserves better than this film” and John DeFore in The Hollywood Reporter said that he “delivers a soulful lead performance that will attract fans’ attention”. Also in 2017, Dinklage had a supporting role in the drama-dark comedy film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, from director Martin McDonagh, and the drama Three Christs, both of which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Dinklage and writer-director Sacha Gervasi spent several years writing and producing a film based on the final days of actor Hervé Villechaize, who committed suicide shortly after his 1993 interview with Gervasi. As of 2017, Dinklage will star and play the title role in My Dinner with Hervé. The movie has been approved by HBO, with Dinklage being set to co-star alongside Jamie Dornan. In 2017, it was announced that Dinklage has been attached to star in the American comedy O Lucky Day, which is to be directed by Adam Shankman and is said to be a “leprechaun comedy”.
In early 2017, Dinklage was cast in the 2018 Marvel Studios film Avengers: Infinity War in a role he will repeat in the 2019 untitled Avengers film. Dinklage has filmed I Think We’re Alone Now, a post-apocalyptic drama based on the companionship between Del, played by Dinklage, and Grace, played by Elle Fanning. The film is set for a 2018 release.
In 2005, Dinklage married Erica Schmidt, a theater director. They have a daughter who was born in 2011. Their daughter’s name has not been revealed publicly, and Dinklage has denied media reports that the girl’s name is “Zelig”. As of March 2, 2017, Dinklage and Schmidt are expecting a second child.
Dinklage’s face was injured in the early 1990s, when he was in a “punk-funk-rap” band called Whizzy. It gave him a scar that runs from his neck to his eyebrow. The accident happened while he was playing at the nightclub CBGB in New York City, where he was accidentally kneed in the face and then started bleeding on the stage.
In 2008, Dinklage described himself as a lapsed Catholic. Dinklage has been a vegetarian since the age of 16. An advocate for animal rights, he supports Farm Sanctuary and has served as the spokesperson for the organization’s Walk for Farm Animals. He also narrated the video Face your Food, a film on behalf of PETA advocating a vegan diet on ethical grounds. In 2017, Dinklage attended the Women’s March demonstration in Park City, Utah, to advocate legislation and policies regarding human rights and other issues. When asked about the news that president Donald Trump is reportedly ending the funding for national arts and humanities programs, Dinklage responded: “It’s always the first to go, isn’t it? Art, then education: the two most important things”, along with “climate, of course”.
Dinklage has a form of dwarfism, achondroplasia, which affects bone growth. As a result, he is 4 feet 5 inches (135 cm) tall, with a typical-sized head and torso but short limbs. While Dinklage has come to accept his condition, he sometimes found it challenging when growing up. In 2003, he said that when he was younger he was often angry and bitter about his condition, but as he got older, he realized that he “just ha to have a sense of humor”, to know “that it’s not your problem. It’s theirs.” When asked in 2012 whether he saw himself as “a spokesman for the rights of little people”, Dinklage responded: “I don’t know what I would say. Everyone’s different. Every person my size has a different life, a different history. Different ways of dealing with it. Just because I’m seemingly okay with it, I can’t preach how to be okay with it.” Dinklage has been viewed as a role model for people sharing his condition.
At the 2012 Golden Globe ceremony, when Dinklage won the award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film, he told the audience that he had been thinking about “a gentleman, his name is Martin Henderson”, and suggested that they Google his name. Henderson is a person with dwarfism from England, who was badly injured by being tossed by a rugby fan in a bar. The speech by Dinklage brought media and public attention to the act of dwarf-tossing with Henderson’s name being trended worldwide on social media. Dinklage turned down offers from talk shows to discuss the topic. He later explained that 20 years earlier he might have accepted these offers but that he’s a “little bit more at peace with things now and I—said what I wanted to say. I have a friend who says the world doesn’t need another angry dwarf.”
Works and accolades
According to the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, Dinklage’s most critically acclaimed films are Living in Oblivion (1995), The Station Agent (2003), Lassie (2005), and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).
Dinklage won a Golden Globe Award for his performance in Game of Thrones. He has also won two Primetime Emmy Awards: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the same role. Dinklage has been nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor each year from 2013 to 2016. He has also been nominated for Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor two times, in 2012 and 2016.