Peter Dinklage broke all kinds of barriers with his Emmy-winning role as Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones. He was a Lannister that didn’t participate in hooking up with his own relatives, he was a lovable character that (spoilers) survived until the end, we could go on. While Dinklage may be best known for Game of Thrones, his career stretches back decades and includes appearances in franchises such as X-Men and The Avengers, as well as dozens of independent films. Here are 42 handy facts about Peter Dinklage.
1. Baba O’Riley
Peter’s older brother, Jonathan, is a professional violinist. Peter remarks that Jonathan is the “real performer” in the family and that Jonathan would be an actor if it wasn’t for his passion for the violin. As children, the two would perform puppet shows for their neighborhood. Peter can recall doing a puppet version of a The Who album, complete with tuna cans serving as drums.
Although Peter Dinklage has been acting since 1995, Tyrion Lannister is the role that has made him a household name for many people. Part of the reason for the late come-up was Dinklage’s refusal to take roles that would be demeaning, e.g. the time he was offered a role as one of Santa’s elves in a Kmart commercial.
3. The Big Apple
Peter Dinklage grew up in New Jersey and moved to New York City later in life. He left for upstate New York in 2012, mainly due to the congestion and the feeling that he was “clawing for space.” Dinklage found the city was affecting his mood, so he decided to make the move upstate, where he now lives with his wife and two children.
4. Hush Hush
Several internet sources have inaccurately said that Dinklage’s first child, born in 2011, is a girl named Zelig. Dinklage is aware of the mistake, yet hasn't bothered to correct anyone—he thinks it's hilarious! Dinklage also has a second child, born in 2017. While we at least know their first child was a daughter, he and his wife, theatre director Erica Schmidt, have not revealed the second's name or gender.
5. What Are Friends For?
Not everyone considers Tyrion to be Dinklage’s breakout role. His real success began with 2003’s The Station Agent, where he played the lead role. The actor's friend, writer-director Tom McCarthy, realized Dinklage could pull off the role of a man seeking solitude. The movie was an indie hit, winning awards at festivals such as Sundance.
It also marked a turn where Dinklage could finally pay the bills solely with acting gigs, at the age of 30.
6. Probably True
Peter Dinklage is actually appreciative of his (relatively) late success. He believes he would have been an irresponsible mess if he was making good money when he was 20. He's glad that he never had to put himself, or his loved ones, through that. I think we all know enough stories about child stars to prove that Dinklage has a point.
7. Behind Every Great Man….
Dinklage has actually worked with his wife in an off-Broadway production of A Month in the Country. Dinklage finds Schmidt’s presence inspiring and believes she the “artist of the family.” While Dinklage thinks most people involved in acting always seek to work on film, he admires his wife for her reverence for theater, which she sees as more art than entertainment.
Compared to her, he thinks of himself as "just the TV actor who pays the bills."
8. Branch Out
Following the success of Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage started receiving more scripts for fantasy projects. However, he is wary of doing roles that are similar to GoT, likely for fear of being typecast. Dinklage also remarks that since GoT was an example of the genre done well (until later seasons at least), it's unnecessary to follow up with a cheap competitor.
9. Oh Jersey…
In Pixels, Dinklage’s performance as Eddie, a former arcade champion, attracted some praise. Eddie’s distinctive mullet was a callback to the style Dinklage saw a lot growing up in 1980s New Jersey. Dinklage imagined the character as one of the mullet-wearing people he saw back then, who usually tore the sleeves off any shirt they wear.
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10. The Good Old Days
Dinklage doesn’t use social media, and its popularity is something that makes him warier when in public. He misses the days when people might notice him, but not have a camera with them. His biggest pet peeves are people who sneak pictures of him or his family. His ire is targeted especially at the younger generation, whom he views as a group of people who can’t live in the moment and feel the need to record everything.
11. Uncle Tyrion
Peter Dinklage views Tyrion as the most relatable character on Game of Thrones since he's not really a hero or villain—and the character’s sense of humor doesn't hurt either. While Ned Stark is obviously an extremely good man, Dinklage doesn’t view Ned as a personality you'd want to have at the dinner table.
12. Grain of Salt
Several media outlets have said that Dinklage has become a desirable Hollywood stud (or a "DwILF," as a Playboy interview put it). While Dinklage likes the term DwILF, he doesn't believe that the girls pining for him would be interested in a dwarf in real life. While they might throw out compliments, he's still sure his fangirls date “guys who are six-foot-two,” and so he doesn't really believe all the stud talk.
13. The Battle of the Blackwater
In real life, Dinklage has a scar that runs from his neck to his eyebrow. Dinklage vividly recalls getting the scar while performing with a punk-funk-rap band (his words) called Whizzy in New York. While Dinklage was jumping around on stage, he got accidentally kneed in the temple. Many performers would have called it a day, but Dinklage simply grabbed a dirty napkin to wipe off the blood and kept going.
14. Speak Out
Dinklage generally doesn’t like to speak about political causes, but he broke his silence when he heard the heartbreaking story of Martin Henderson. Henderson was a fellow dwarf actor who was tossed by a drunken rugby player in a New Zealand bar. The fall left Henderson with spine damage, and Henderson has since passed on.
Dinklage mentioned Henderson in his 2012 Golden Globes acceptance speech, feeling that he couldn’t stay silent on the issue. Henderson was trending shortly after.
15. Eau de Dinklage
Dinklage didn’t mince words when he explained to a Playboy interviewer that “midget” is the N-word for little people. However, he added some people try to make it their own, even adding an “é” at the end to make “midgeté.” Dinklage also has a friend who created a cologne for him called Midgeté Midgeté. He jokes (?) that once Game of Thrones is done, cologne could be his next big thing!
16. Tough Crowd
While growing up in Bay Head, New Jersey, Dinklage lived next door to Bruce Springsteen’s manager. Dinklage was about two at the time, so he doesn’t personally recall meeting Springsteen. However, his parents would see Springsteen when he visited his manager. His parents also heard Springsteen play as part of the band at a wedding they attended (which was in a surfboard factory). Mama Dinklage didn’t think Springsteen was that good, and she said he was too loud.
17. The Bells
Like most of us, Peter Dinklage recalls high school as being a very dark time in his life. Dinklage recalls him and his best friend coming up with the idea to hang themselves from the school’s bell tower. The two didn’t truly wish to go out that way, but they fantasized about the town responding to the tragedy.
18. Huddle Up
When asked how he survived being poor in New York, Dinklage’s simple answer is that it was cheaper to live in Brooklyn back in the 80s and 90s. Dinklage recalls living in a home without heat or a stove, which is something he could never go back to now.
19. The Situation
Peter Dinklage got to do a commencement speech for his alma mater, Bennington College. The speech itself was probably overshadowed by Dinklage walking to the stage with a mace. The mace was a gift from a student, who gave it to Dinklage a few minutes before getting on stage. The ball at the end was a bronzed artichoke.
Dinklage gave the mace to his mom, since he had to leave the country shortly after and couldn’t take it on a plane with him. He jokes that she is likely using it to protect herself back in New Jersey.
20. Mines of Moria
While Dinklage is a Lord of the Rings fan, he always had a bit of an issue with dwarves presented as another species of being in the series. In contrast, he says he owes George R.R. Martin a debt of gratitude for presenting dwarves as human beings.
Filming Game of Thrones took up three months of the year. In the other nine, Dinklage would take time to focus on indie projects. He likes indies because they keep him in touch with his early career, when the people he worked with created projects for reasons other than money.
22. Iceberg Ahead
Game of Thrones is filmed in Croatia, Morocco, Iceland, and Northern Ireland. Dinklage also revealed that the Belfast studio where the show was filmed happens to be in the shipyard where the Titanic (the actual ship, not the movie) was built. Maybe it was foreshadowing the show sinking in quality?
23. He’s a Phoney!
Tyrion is known for being one of the wisest men in Westeros (at least until season 8). Despite the character's cerebral nature, there were a few times when he swung a sword—but while fans might remember it as ultra-tough, Dinklage cringes at the thought. Why? On-screen, it looked like his character was chopping a man's leg off, but to Dinklage, he just remembers knocking a 70-year-old amputee actor's wooden leg off. Not exactly the most heroic feat.
24. Being Peter Dinklage
After graduating from Bennington College, Peter Dinklage moved to New York with his classmate Ian Bell. Originally, Dinklage dreamed of opening up a theatre company. His plans changed to acting after he saw the 1984 stage production of True West, starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich. In fact, Dinklage believes most male actors his age can trace their interest in acting back to that play.
25. East vs. West
Remember how Dinklage lived in an apartment without an oven? Well, it was unusable for a truly disgusting reason. It was filled with rats. Dinklage recalls complaining to the landlord, only to have the landlord pull a knife on him. Eventually, he and Bell were evicted for being unable to pay rent. Bell went to Seattle, where he now writes and directs, while Dinklage stayed in New York, where he eventually began to get stage work and small parts in indie films.
26. Talent Trumps Size
Writer Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) actually rewrote the lead role for Dinklage after the two worked together on a vaudeville play. McCarthy was convinced that Dinklage had the self-assuredness and vulnerability of a leading man, and gave him the part.
27. Let It Go
Dinklage points to 2003’s Tiptoes as the strangest note in his filmography. The story follows Matthew McConaughey and Kate Beckinsale, a couple expecting their first child. Beckinsale is taken aback when she learns that McConaughey’s family are all dwarves and that her child might end up being one too. The film also features Gary Oldman playing a dwarf (he stands on his knees).
While Dinklage is normally more PC, he ultimately decided that he was just happy to work with Gary Oldman: “He can do whatever he wants.”
28. Speak for Yourself
Dinklage normally expresses annoyance when he is asked if he wishes to be a spokesperson for little people. The Henderson incident was a rarity for him since he believes it's patronizing for one person to tell others how they should feel or react to certain situations. Dinklage also reveals it would be disingenuous since there are days when he still struggles with his self-esteem concerning his height.
While Dinklage gained some airtime for discussing Martin Henderson at the Golden Globes, he recalls that his friends were more focused on the fact that he ignored Brangelina. The (former) power couple tried to congratulate him while he was making his way to the stage to accept his award, but his mind was so preoccupied with what he was going to say that he ended up ignoring their greetings.
Dinklage’s role as Tina Fey’s boyfriend on 30 Rock was yet another where the writer (Fey) wrote the role with him in mind. In case you’re wondering, Dinklage never thought of making a move (even if he’d been single). He was working with Fey during the height of her popularity as a Sarah Palin impersonator and fans constantly bombarded her in the street. It was that experience, and Comic-Con, that taught Dinklage he can’t cope well with large crowds of strangers coming up to him.
31. Blink Twice if You’re Being Held Against Your Will
Dinklage was one of several GoT actors that went viral for their thoughts on season 8. An Entertainment Tonight video captures the Emmy-winning actor working through a monotone delivery of lines such as “They ended it brilliantly...” and “There are no better writers in television…”
32. Lucky Number
The role of Tyrion has gotten Dinklage nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor seven times, and he's taken the prize home three times, in 2011, 2015, and 2018.
33. Think of the Animals
Dinklage has been a vegetarian since he was 16 years old. He eats tofu or fake meats when he’s filming any scene that requires him to eat meat. Dinklage also did a “Face Your Food” video for PETA, which takes a look at the conditions animals face before being slaughtered for food.
34. The Good Old Days
While the names Dan Weiss and D.B Benioff might put a bad taste in your mouth now, we also have them to thank for Tyrion’s casting. Dinklage was good friends with Benioff and his wife, Amanda Peet. Benioff thought Dinklage’s wit made him a perfect match for Tyrion. Once he was assured that the role wouldn’t require an uncomfortable beard and pointy shoes (like his role in Prince Caspian), he was in.
Prior to filming Game of Thrones, Dinklage had only read the first book in the series. He had to confess that to George R.R. Martin directly, and while he says Martin looked hurt, Dinklage assures us that it was nothing personal. He read the first book to get the background for Tyrion’s character, but Dinklage liked being surprised with the new scripts, so he avoided the subsequent books.
36. Last Supper
Dinklage and his friend, Sacha Gervasi, developed a biopic about Herve Villechaize. Villechaize was a French-American dwarf actor (he preferred to be called midget) who died by suicide in 1993. Gervasi interviewed Villechaize a week before his passing, and in retrospect, Gervasi came to the realization that the interview was a kind of suicide note. My Dinner with Herve became a TV movie, chronicling the last few days of Villechaize’s life.
37. Red, White, and Blue
Dinklage is the only Game of Thrones cast member born and raised in the United States.
38. It’s Who You Know
Dinklage and Lena Headey (Cersei) met back in 2010 while filming Pete Smalls is Dead. Fans can thank Dinklage for her being cast, since he suggested her to the producers. While many of us see Cersei as a wicked woman, Dinklage thinks Headey’s talent allows her to play the part better, being a “mother lion” who is simply trying to do best for her children.
39. The Iron Bank
Dinklage has come a long way since being evicted from his rat-infested New York apartment. As of 2017, he—along with Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke—were each getting paid $1.1 million per episode in seasons 7 and 8. This figure made the cast the highest paid in TV history.
40. Leads Just Want to Have Fun
Back in the 90s, Dinklage told an interviewer he wanted to play the lead and get the girl. By 2013, his priorities shifted, and he admitted that playing supporting characters is more enjoyable.
41. Sorry Guy
Dinklage’s 2012 Golden Globe win wasn’t a surprise to many, but Dinklage’s mom may have been taken aback. Prior to the ceremony, Mama Dinklage told Peter that Guy Pearce was going to win instead, for his performance in Mildred Pearce.
42. The Watch
A morning walk in Los Angeles led to a disturbing incident for Dinklage. He ended up watching a man pass on. A car hit a motorcyclist in the street, in full view of Dinklage. Dinklage remembers how quiet it was since it was early in the morning, standing there with the knowledge that “I was the only person in the world who knew this guy was dead."