He’s made his name playing Tyrion Lannister on HBO’s Game of Thrones, a role that has netted him three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, but actor Peter Dinklage is still not well known to many people. The 50-year-old actor who identifies himself as a “dwarf” is extremely private and rarely gives interviews. And besides Game of Thrones, his best-known role is probably that of irritable children’s book author Miles Finch in the enduring Christmas movie Elf opposite comedian Will Ferrell. But with the popularity of Game of Thrones, it seems that we are destined to see more of Peter Dinklage on both the small and big screens.
In celebration of Peter Dinklage’s 50th birthday, here are 10 lesser known facts about the talented actor.
10. He Suffers From a Common Form of Dwarfism
Peter Dinklage suffers from a form of Dwarfism known as “Achondroplasia.” With this condition, the body is perfectly formed with the exception of the arms and legs. The long bones of the arms and legs do not grow enough. However, the head and torso are regular sized. This is one of the most common forms of Dwarfism and affects about one in 40,000 people. As a result, Peter Dinklage stands only four feet, five inches tall. His parents, siblings, wife and daughter, however, are each normal height and do not have Dwarfism. Peter Dinklage is an activist for other short statured people and often makes references to Dwarfism when accepting awards for his acting work.
9. He’s a Committed Vegetarian
Peter Dinklage is a committed vegetarian and does not eat any meat. When shown on camera eating meat, it is usually a Tofu product. He is also an animal rights activist and says that he became a vegetarian because he does not believe in harming any animals. When interviewed on the subject, Peter Dinklage has said: “I like animals, all animals. I wouldn’t hurt a cat or a dog – or a chicken or a cow. And I wouldn’t ask someone else to hurt them for me. That’s why I’m a vegetarian.” Currently, Peter Dinklage owns a dog named Kevin that he is frequently seen walking near his home in Manhattan, New York. He has also spoken about a dog he had growing up named “Zoe” who he loved and whose death left a permanent mark on him. Peter Dinklage 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 advocating a vegetarian diet for ethical reasons.
8. His First Role Was in “The Velveteen Rabbit”
Peter Dinklage got his first taste of acting in the Fifth Grade when he starred as the title character in a school production of the classic story “The Velveteen Rabbit”, about a stuffed rabbit and his desire to become real through the love of his owner. The audience loved young Peter Dinklage as the rabbit and he got several standing ovations from the crowd, which hooked him on a career as an actor. “When you get your first solo bow, that feels pretty good,” he explained to People magazine. From that moment on, Peter Dinklage committed himself to becoming an actor despite the fact that he suffered from Dwarfism and was told by many people he was too short to make it as a professional thespian.
7. His Brother Jonathan is a Professional Violinist
Peter Dinklage’s brother Jonathan is a professional violinist who has performed on soundtracks for movies such as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Trumbo and The Visitor. Jonathan Dinklage also performed as one of the string ensemble on iconic Canadian band Rush’s album Clockwork Angels, and toured with the legendary rockers.
Jonathan Dinklage has also played the violin on albums for other noted rock stars, including Rod Stewart, James Taylor, Amy Winehouse and even Clay Aiken. Of his brother, Peter Dinklage has said: “My brother, who’s a violinist now, was the real ham, the real performer of the family. His passion for the violin is the only thing that kept him from being an actor.” Who knew?
6. He’s a Respected Stage Actor
Peter Dinklage lives in New York City where he continues to enjoy an active career as a respected stage actor. Over the years, he has starred on and off Broadway in both original plays such as “The Killing Act” and “Imperfect Love,” as well as classics such as Shakespeare’s “Richard III” and Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” He has even starred opposite Meryl Streep on the stage. Peter Dinklage is also married to a theatre director named Erica Schmidt, and the two frequently collaborate on projects together when Peter is not off filming Game of Thrones or various movie projects. Peter Dinklage has said that it is his love of theatre that got him into acting in the first place.
5. He Said The Game of Thrones Books Are “Confusing”
Game of Thrones has, arguably, given Peter Dinklage his best acting role to date. It is certainly his most high profile role. And the HBO television show is, of course, based on the wildly popular Game of Thrones books authored by writer George R.R. Martin. So, given the success he’s enjoyed with Game of Thrones, one would assume that Peter Dinklage is a fan of the books that serve as the TV show’s source material. Not so. In fact, Peter Dinklage told late night talk show host David Letterman that he finds the books “confusing” and has not been able to finish them despite trying to read several in the series. “My character will probably be killed off on the show for saying that,” Dinklage told Letterman. Despite this fact, George R.R. Martin has maintained that Peter Dinklage was his first choice to play Tyrion Lannister, and that he cannot imagine another actor in the role.
4. He is a Big Batman Fan
While stating that he did not read a lot of comic books while growing up, Peter Dinklage is nevertheless a big fan of Batman, stating: “I have a soft spot for Batman, because he doesn’t have any super powers – he’s just a person. And he’s pretty dark.” Peter Dinklage has also praised the Christopher Nolan directed Batman trilogy, calling the films the “best superhero movies ever” and has said that he would welcome a part in a future Batman movie project, particularly if there was a role for a villain.
“Bad guys are complicated characters. It’s always fun to play them. You get away with a lot more. You don’t have a heroic code you have to live by,” Peter Dinklage said in an interview to promote last year’s summer movie release of Pixels. He did play the military scientist (and sorta villainous) Bolivar Trask in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
3. He Refers to Himself as a “Hermit”
When not working as an actor, Peter Dinklage leads a pretty quiet life. So quiet, that he refers to himself as a hermit. “I’m a private person in many ways. I spend my nights just sitting and reading a book and drinking my tea and walking my dog. That’s about as exciting as my life gets,” Dinklage has said, adding “I don’t socialize. I’m kind of a hermit. The life of an actor can be very lonely.” Indeed, when Peter Dinklage is photographed by paparazzi it is usually photos of him walking his dog or taking his daughter to a local park. He is rarely photographed out and about in Hollywood and has largely stayed out of the tabloid press. Clearly, he is an actor who is focused on his craft and not simply being a celebrity.
2. He Knew Bruce Springsteen
Peter Dinklage grew up in suburban New Jersey, where his family was neighbors with Bruce Springsteen’s then manager. Peter Dinklage told Playboy magazine that he used to see Bruce Springsteen a lot when he as a kid, and that the Boss even came to his house a few times when he was a youngster.“Bruce used to come over to our house and hang out and play guitar,” Dinklage has said.
“This was when I was very young, so I don’t remember a lot of it. My mom and dad went to a wedding at a surfboard factory, and Bruce was in the wedding band. He was about 17-years-old at the time. My mom didn’t think he was that great. She told me he was too loud.” This seems hilarious in retrospect, but makes for one heck of a story. Perhaps Bruce Springsteen helped to inspire Peter Dinklage’s brother, Jonathan, to become a professional musician.
1. His Voice Was Featured on Seinfeld
Before his face became well known, Peter Dinklage made a mark with his voice on the landmark TV show Seinfeld. In a 1995 episode entitled “The Wink,” Peter Dinklage’s voice can be heard as the “Wake Up Guy” who phones Elaine each morning at 7:15 a.m. to tell her it is time to get up, and then engages with Elaine in personal and inappropriate conversation. The part is extremely funny and the audience never gets to see the Wake Up Guy in-person. They only hear his voice. This part was one of Peter Dinklage’s first professional acting gigs and one that fans of Seinfeld delight in rediscovering now that they know who the actor is behind the voice.