SCREEN TIME: Peter Dinklage

At 4 feet, 5 inches, actor Peter Dinklage is a bit of a cliché when it comes to his height and personality. More than short, with a giant mind exuded through words, Dinklage’s oversized “ego” comes with reason. Angry at the world for being born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism where his leg and arms stopped growing as they should, he only managed to transform his fury at being different by speaking bigger. “When I was younger, definitely, I let it get to me. As an adolescent, I was bitter and angry and I definitely put up these walls,” he says. “But the older you get, you realize you just have to have a sense of humor. You just know that it's not your problem. It's theirs.”

It’s this cocky humor that has become his trademark. Sarcastic and dark with snarky flair, Dinklage has made a name for himself by playing a diminutive dude with quick one liners that knock one’s ego down to below his size. As a fan favorite on Game of Thrones, he plays the beat down and disrespected Tyrion Lannister to a tee. Dinklage brings an air of organic force to his portrayal of the unappreciated, abandoned son made to continually stand tall despite being constantly kicked down and forced to dig for respect.

In his new movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dinklage plays Dr. Boliver Trask, the visionary scientist and poisonous obsession of Mystique’s eye. Trask coerces the government to finance his Sentinel project – the making of towering giant robots adaptable to X-Men powers in a way that will protect America and destroy all mutant breeds. During an interview in Australia with The Vine, he threw up air quotes when discussing “mutations.” 

"The mutants represent how at one point or another, all of us have felt like an outsider to varying degrees. I can speak to that, being the size I am, but mine is just more physically apparent than some other—‘mutations', whether they be physical, emotional, mental, or race, gender, sexual orientation; whatever it is. And especially in America, when these [comic] books were written, that was starting to become more and more of an issue, and people – rightfully so – got a bit more brave about speaking their minds about who they are."

Sharing his truth and discussing America seems to come easy for Dinklage. The intellectual Gemini casually, yet seriously, injects personal commentary on the ills of society, problems in politics, and issues with those in power all while breaking down his character in Days of Future Past.

“Define villain?  I’m going to argue a bit with this notion of good and evil,” said the 44-year-old during a New York press conference for X-Men. “This guy, sure. Not so much the other guy.  I’ve said that before about this character, and it was more like a highfalutin actor thing of not judging your character and not seeing him as a villain.  He really believes he’s doing the right thing.  He wants to save humankind but, at the same time, he was also a capitalist. I think if you’re going to tack on villain or evil on someone, those are the guys I do not trust.  War profiteers.  He certainly has a big T on all those cargo containers with the Sentinels in them. That’s ego and war profiteering. The guy screaming at a tree in Central Park is crazy, and I get that being a New Yorker. But the guys down on Wall Street in the suits bleeding people of their life savings are not?”

When Dinklage speaks, his Bennington College trained diction is quite professor like. One might mistakenly believe that he was born a part of British society. One might think that his role on Game of Thrones was a casting choice that matched the English, Irish, and Australian upbringing of most of his show’s co-workers. But no. Dinklage is a Jersey boy. Born and raised in the suburbs of Morristown, his father sold insurance. Mom was a school music teacher. And his older violinist brother made up a household of those born typically tall while young Peter was the exception to the Dinklage family height rule. But what he does have in common with his immediate relatives, is a shared outlook on politics. “My mother was an elementary school teacher for 45 years and she taught at the Nixon School in New Jersey.  I was raised a very liberal democrat and she was protesting Nixon while he was in office,” he says, in a conference room at New York’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. “We have a picture of my mother and President Nixon shaking hands, much to her ire.  We had it up on the mantle and rubbed it in her face for a while there.”

When accepting his Golden Globe in 2011 for best supporting actor for his role on Game of Thrones, Dinklage shouted out Martin Henderson, a fellow dwarf attacked and partially crippled after being thrown by a Rugby player outside of a New Zealand Bar. This penchant for discussing social issues, added with a down to Earth, bluntly spoken opinion, comes from his in-your-face, Jersey vibe that constantly reminds him of home. “I was talking to my mother in Jersey before I came out and she said, ‘Have fun but have you seen Mildred Pierce? Guy Pearce is so good. He's gonna win,’” Dinklage said, while accepting his Golden Globe. “So…I haven't seen Mildred Pierce, but I'm sure he's really good and I just love our moms because they keep us humble.”

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