Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Little Actors, Big Talent

I was flipping through the channels on DirecTV this evening, when I happened across Tom McCarthy's brilliant indie charmer The Station Agent. I hadn't seen it in a while, and I was once again sucked in by the mesmerizing yet subtle performance from Peter Dinklage. It started me thinking about the handful of brilliant, working little people we have in TV and Film today, and throughout the history of entertainment. I thought maybe it was time to put names with the faces of these fantastic actors.


PETER DINKLAGE
Notable roles:
Fin McBride in THE STATION AGENT
Peter in DEATH AT A FUNERAL
Stewart on 30 ROCK
Thumpkin in CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN
Marlow Sayer on NIP/TUCK
Miles Finch in ELF
Tito in LIVING IN OBLIVION
Leflore in SAFE MEN

The list could go on and on--Dinklage is a master of the slow take and can rattle off sarcastic one-liners like nobody's business. He was a great foil for Tina Fey's Liz Lemon, and a sledgehammer-wielding hitman in Safe Men. His first film appearance was in Tom DiCillo's Living in Oblivion, a great skewering of low-budget indies, in which he plays an integral part in an awful dream sequence. He pricelessly rips into Steve Buscemi's Nick, complaining "Have you ever had a dream with a dwarf in it? Do you know anyone who's had a dream with a dwarf in it? No! I don't even have dreams with dwarves in them. The only place I've seen dwarves in dreams is in stupid movies like this! "Oh make it weird, put a dwarf in it!". Everyone will go "Woah, this must be a fuckin' dream, there's a fuckin' dwarf in it!". Well I'm sick of it! You can take this dream sequence and stick it up your ass!"


WARWICK DAVIS
Notable roles:
Wicket in RETURN OF THE JEDI
Willow Ufgood in WILLOW
The Leprechaun in LEPRECHAUN
Professor Filius Flitwick in The HARRY POTTER films
Marvin the depressed robot in THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
Nikabrik in THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN

Davis started his storied film career in the early '80s, donning the Ewok suit in Lucas' third Star Wars film and later taking the lead as brave and noble Willow Ufgood in Willow. His sweet natured performances took a drastic about-face when he assumed the role of the gleefully evil Leprechaun in the successful horror series. Truly versatile as an actor, it's always a pleasure to see his Professor Flitwick take he screen in the Harry Potter films.


VERNE TROYER
Notable roles:
Mini-Me in the AUSTIN POWERS films
Percy in THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS
Himself on THE SURREAL LIFE

Yeah, he'll always probably be Mini-Me, but he definitely stole every scene he appeared in in Mike Myers' Austin Powers films. I try to forget his drunken peeing incident on VH1's The Surreal Life, and I am eagerly awaiting Terry Gilliam's Doctor Parnassus film, notable mainly as Heath Ledger's final and unfinished performance.


TONY COX
Notable roles:
Marcus in BAD SANTA
Arlo on RESCUE ME
Various roles in the EPIC MOVIE/DATE MOVIE/DISASTER MOVIE series

Wickedly funny actor Cox chewed-scenery beautifully in Terry Zwigoff's unabashedly bawdy dark comedy Bad Santa as Marcus, Billy Bob Thornton's partner in crime. He also has my favorite line in the film--after Thornton remarks "You can't drink worth shit," Marcus quickly counters "I weigh 92 pounds, you dick!"


IAN MICHAEL SMITH
Notable role:
Simon Birch in SIMON BIRCH

John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my all-time favorite books. Yes, they pretty much butchered it (and just explored the first 100 or so pages, really) for the film adaptation Simon Birch, and the film itself is overly-sentimental and tugs at your heart strings (and I'll admit, it fully worked on me), but Smith gives an outstanding and incredibly naturalistic performance as the title character. His only foray into acting, I believe he's currently a student at MIT.


DEEP ROY
Notable roles:
The Oompa-Loompas in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Keenser in STAR TREK
Mr. Soggybottom in BIG FISH
Mr. Sin on DOCTOR WHO
Teeny Weeny in THE NEVERENDING STORY

A favorite of Tim Burton (who utilized him in Planet of the Apes, The Corpse Bride, Big Fish and as all of the Oompa Loompas in his remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Roy is a gifted physical comedian. He was great as Simon Pegg's sidekick in the Star Trek reboot, but I'll always remember him best as the Snail Racer from childhood favorite The Neverending Story.


BILLY BARTY
Notable roles:
High Aldwin from WILLOW
Noodles MacIntosh from UHF
Gwildor from MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
Screwball from LEGEND
Otto Kreigling from UNDER THE RAINBOW
J.J. MacKuen from FOUL PLAY
Sigmund Ooze from SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS
Various characters on THE SPIKE JONES SHOW
Billy McGuire in tons of MICKEY ROONEY SHORTS

With over 170 credits to his name, Barty started working in Hollywood in the 1920's and continued to work well into the early 2000's. Old-Hollywood in the best way, Barty certainly learned a lot from teaming up with Mickey Rooney for several years in the '30s. His facial ticks and priceless takes highlighted a career full of memorable performances, including the sadistic German spy Otto in Under The Rainbow, the wise Aldwin in Willow ("The bones tell no lies!"), and the Hawn-chasing baddie J.J. in Foul Play. Sadly, Barty passed away in December of 2000.

Lots of memorable moments from these great actors...Honorable mention to Jordan Prentice, who was not only one of several to take on the Howard the Duck suit, but was hilarious as the drugged-out racist actor in my favorite film from last year, In Bruges.

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