With the release of Little Man, I was shocked to find no protests from little people. Is this movie not the worst representation of dwarfs in decades? Though I'm not sure if the actors playing Marlon Wayans' body are actual little people, it must be insulting that a real little person isn't playing the "vertically-challenged" character. Wasn't it bad enough that The Lord of the Rings trilogy didn't use dwarfs as hobbits? Basically Little Man backtracks the portrayal of little people and makes them out to be freaks once again.
So, I'd like to take this opportunity to salute the little people in movies. They are in fact all over the big screen, mostly as stand-ins and stunt-doubles for children, but once in awhile they are really celebrated with prominent roles. These roles have decreased, though, since CGI replaced many creature characters so we have fewer little people dressed as Ewoks, robots and other sci-fi/fantasy inventions. I chose seven films I think are quite significant in the showcasing of individual little people. I've deliberately left out Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on account it obviously doesn't use actual little people, and I've also omitted The Wizard of Oz since there are no real standouts, only a lot of dressed-up extras.
(1981) - This classic from director Terry Gilliam
is probably the best introduction to little people for children (as opposed to The Wizard of Oz
). It features six distinct and lovable dwarfs who travel through time with an 11-year-old boy. Considering each of the little actors upstage all of the many established bigs, including Sean Connery
and John Cleese
, the film is a great example of the talents of specific little people, and it shows how respectful Gilliam is to them (he tends to employ little people in most of his films). The six actors were some of the best employed dwarfs of their time. Kenny Baker
has played R2-D2 in all the Star Wars
films and Malcolm Dixon
portrayed an Oompa-Loompa, an Ewok and one of the goblins of Labyrinth
. Jack Purvis
, who also performed in the original Star Wars
films, went on to be prominently featured in Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
The Station Agent
(2003) - No other film has made such a respectable thespian out of a little person as Thomas McCarthy's
beautiful film made Peter Dinklage
. Not only did audiences accept Dinklage as simply an actor rather than a little actor, many claimed he was Oscar-worthy. Since then Dinklage has gotten a few roles in films that don't point to his stature, including The Baxter
and Find Me Guilty
, yet unfortunately the IMDb has him credited for future parts that are all about him being a dwarf.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
(1999) - I don't think any of the Austin Powers
series are necessarily good films, but the first sequel is notable for making Verne Troyer
a huge star. Troyer's Mini-Me steals the whole picture away from Mike Myers
, even with the SNL
vet playing three characters. And he doesn't even have any lines. Troyer continued the role into the third film, but the part of Mini-Me was no longer the innovative creation it was in Part 2, and aside from giving little men a good reputation in the area of genitalia size, his presence didn't have the same impact for little people as it had before. Competing with Troyer, currently, for best comedic little person is Tony Cox
, who is hilarious in his most well-known roles in Bad Santa
and Me, Myself & Irene
(1988) - Ron Howard's rip-off of The Lord of the Rings
is also pretty bad, but it is enjoyable, and at least it cast actual little people as its hobbit knockoffs. Warwick Davis
, who got his start playing Wicket in Return of the Jedi
, completely carries the film and makes it worth ignoring the weak script and horrible special effects.
Don't Look Now
(1973) - This one might veer a little bit from my focus on favorable representations of little people, but I still think it's a significant part. The dwarf played by Adelina Poerio
in Nicolas Roeg's
film probably made a lot of people scared of little people for awhile. And it wasn't the last time they were employed as frightening characters (see Leprechaun
, et al.). Yet just as big actors can be commendable for their villainous roles, so too can little people. Poerio isn't simply scary because she's a dwarf, but because she does a great job of portraying a scary dwarf. Think also of the difference between Warwick Davis' performances as the title character in Willow
and as the Leprechaun. Or of Phil Fondacaro
as his good-natured characters and his bad-natured ones.
Simón of the Desert
(1971) - Long before Gilliam and David Lynch
were employing little people in strange and fantastic tales, the surreal film master, Luis Bunuel, featured an amazing dwarf in this odd religious tale of temptation. Played by Jesús Fernández
, the bow-legged goatherd is one of the most memorable characters from Bunuel's films.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
(2005) - I personally love the original Oompa-Loompas in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
and found them annoying in this new version, but I have to give respect to Deep Roy
, the actor who portrayed every one of the little race in Tim Burton's
film. Roy is another who has appeared in a number of the usual dwarf staples, including Return of the Jedi
(he was Droopy McCool), The Dark Crystal
and Return to Oz
(as Tin Man, not a munchkin). Burton also employed him memorably in Big Fish
, which I was also disappointed with, but can somewhat appreciate.