An Interview with Peter Dinklage
“It’s big melon, whatta you mean?” Asked actor Peter Dinklage. I had asked the star of THE STATION AGENT about his wonderfully cinematic head.
“Do you practice in the mirror, or anything?” I asked.
“Other than shaving, which I didn’t do this morning, no. I mean I know I’m really good looking.” Peter joked. We spoke when he was in Atlanta a few weeks back promoting his new film.
“I spend time in front of the mirror doing make-up [prior to shooting] of course. But my mirror at home is water stained.” Peter continued. “[On the set] you take a last minute look and go, you trust the good people there looking out for you. Also, I don’t watch the dailies because they can screw me up. I’m self-conscious and the dailies affect the next day of filming.”
In THE STATION AGENT, Dinklage plays Finbar McBride a model train expert whose dear friend passes away and leaves him an old train station. Finbar or Fin as he called takes up residence in the station and meets a couple local inhabitants with problems not so unlike his own.
“The character [Fin] is flawed. He gets selfish and his reactions to things may not seem rational.” Peter reminded me of a scene in which his character Fin gets angry when another character, Joe, tells Fin he is sorry that he couldn’t meet him because Joe’s Dad got sick. “Fin’s reaction is not normal, I mean, it isn’t normal to react to someone telling you their Dad is sick with anger.”
Fin is a complex character created by Thomas McCarthy. The screenplay smartly called for an actor of Dinklage’s stature—Dinklage is 4 foot 6 inches or so.
“Fin has to deal with day to day ignorance,” Peter said, admitting that he also had to deal with this daily ignorance. “You have to shut out things but you end up shutting out good with the bad.”
After talking with Peter, I realized that it was Fin’s quality for shutting people out that ends up causing Joe and Olivia to be drawn to him.
Peter told me that he personally still has to shut a lot of stuff out but that it gets exhausting. “I can’t help who I am [physically].” Peter said and he meant it confidently. This gave me an insight into the message of THE STATION AGENT. Fin has to accept his dwarfism, and for the most part has done so, long ago, it is the rest of us who have problems getting over it.
Peter mentioned his film with Steve Buscemi 13 MOONS. “It is lost in distribution.” He said. “Steve and I play clowns on a children’s TV show. The 8 characters are isolated people on the fringe of society who come together.”
Avoiding negative stereotypes is important to Peter, who admits that he wouldn’t likely take a role that called for him to be a sideshow freak or anything. We spoke briefly about HBO’s fascinating new show CARNIVALE and the role of Samson played by Michael J. Anderson. Peter told me that he auditioned for that role. The small actor Anderson plays the carnival manager who handles the business of the show rather than being an attraction. After a few episodes, Anderson’s size is just not relevant, and his character is a powerful fellow (the latest coming attractions for next week’s episode even has him wielding a revolver and insisting on justice).
“I look for quality scripts and challenges. Sure, I gotta pay the bills and I hope that I could lift mediocre material, and I can’t deny the history involved [with dwarfism].”
I asked Peter about his writing. Apparently, he had written a play called FROG.
“I’ve stopped writing. It takes a lot of discipline and there are so many good talented writers. I’m concentrating on my acting.”
Peter will next be seen in a play based on the life of Toulouse Lautrec. “It is about the women he loved and his relationship with his mother.” Peter told me. Peter didn’t think much of the parody of Lautrec featured in MOULIN ROUGE. “But everyone in the movie was a caricature and this isn’t a criticism of the movie or anything.”
Dinklage has a small part in the upcoming film ELF. “It is a smart movie from John Favreau and Will Ferrell.” He said.
“Hopefully, THE STATION AGENT will open hearts and minds.” Peter told me. He admitted that this is the movie universe but in real life everyone shuts himself or herself off and that Fin’s size like his own is just another factor leading to the shut off. Lots of people have reasons for isolation. THE STATION AGENT uses Fin’s size to personify this vividly early on only to address universal issues that confront all of us in the final analysis. The fact that the audience forgets Fin’s stature by the film’s conclusion is a testament to the skillful story telling and just plain terrific performances like the one by Dinklage.