Little Person Actors: Is it demeaning to play leprechauns?

I’ll bet he cried all the way to the bank.

There was an episode of Little People, Big World where Zach was offered a seasonal job as one of Santa’s elves at a department store. I remember him having a talk with his father, but I don’t remember if he took the job or not.

And kids have stricter labor laws, max hours, etc. Which is why twins like Olsens were used, because each could work half of it.

I seem to remember hearing an interview with Peter Dinklage on NPR where he talked about not wanting to play a Christmas elf and turning down many opportunities to do so early in his career.

That’s a great movie! It’s one of my favorite performances by Buscemi.

I’ve not heard of any little actors feeling demeaned because of a role they took. I’m guessing there are enough actors if wouldn’t be impossible to find someone willing to take on most roles available. As long as their pay is equal to that of taller actors I don’t see it as demeaning, seeing as taller actors also sometimes play parts where their costume/makeup is unusual.

Only with proper assistance.

Actually I don’t think people should ask actors such as Steve Buscemi, Danny Trejo and Sid Haig to perform until someone helps them with face lifts and dental work. Imagine expecting them to put those faces out there on the screen. Offensive! :smiley:

Or better yet, imagine the most vanilla and smooth chocolate actors possible. No flaws, no reason to find anything disturbing or unusual. Now that’s exciting cinema.

I like a little rocky road. Or is it lemonade?

He stole a scene from Johnny Depp without saying a word, just taking off his glasses and nodding.

He’s very good. :slight_smile:

Here’s an article about how some little people who are actors feel. It’s not necessarily the role itself, but specific scenes or actions that are stereotypical and degrading.

Hard to know the exact relationship, but many of the most successful little people actors have committed suicide, including David Rappaport, Hervé Villechaize, and Michael Gilden.

I don’t know much about the other two, but Villechaize had suffered from health problems and was supposedly in chronic pain. That sort of thing has driven people of normal stature to suicide, too. It seems to me wrong somehow to attribute every problem someone abnormally short has to that one factor. They are, after all, human beings. Being a little person/dwarf/midget/whatever it’s called these days is just on top of everything else any other person has to deal with.

I agree, which is why I said that it’s hard to know the exact relationship. Physical health issues, and the stress of being in a minority can contribute, as well as all of the other issues that people of average height face. But there’s no question that many little people actors are bothered by some of the roles that they are asked to play.

FYI, little person and dwarf are the current accepted terms; midget is considered to be a derogatory slur.

True. On the other hand, Villechaise apparently did prefer the term “midget” and on occasion asked people to use that in reference to him. In that context, failure to include it in the list of terms would, IMHO, be disrespectful to his indicated preferences.

It’s not like anyone’s forcing them to play leprechauns. They aren’t slaves. If they find it demeaning, don’t take the job. I’m sure another, less easily demeaned midget/dwarf/little person/person of challenging height will be more than willing to take it instead.

The classic retort to this sort of question came from the actress Hattie McDaniel (aka Mammy in Gone With the Wind). Ms. McDaniel often played maids, and she was occasionally asked if she had problems playing such a stereotyped role, famously replied, “I’d rather play a maid than be a maid!”

Well, I can’t be sure, but I possibly would rather be a leprechaun than play one.

How many of the Munchkins were driven to therapy, anyone know? And I don’t mean given a lift. So to speak.

I imagine that many character actors in Hollywood are typecast; ugly man, obese woman, redneck man, “gangster-looking”, etc.

It’s type-casting to cast a big rough-looking dude to play a big rough-looking dude, or to cast an obese woman to play an obese woman.

To cast a little person as a mythical fantasy being isn’t exactly the same thing. Little people aren’t mythical fantasy beings. Not that it’s wrong to cast them as such, sometimes it’s for no other reason than to save on special effects. Making regular sized actors into Hobbits is no small feat (and, as they are Hobbits, it’s no small feet).

Of course many regular sized actors play mythical fantasy beings as well, but they also get to play humans. Little people who are actors almost never get the opportunity to play humans- it’s almost an appropriate use of the word “literally” to say that this convention is literally dehumanizing.

It’s the cumulative effect of only being offered the roles of mythical fantasy beings that is . . . maybe not offensive, nor demeaning, but dismaying to say the least.

I don’t know what kind of condescension or mistreatment most little people feel they experience in regular life, but I wonder if the fact that most people only ever see little people when little people are portraying non-humans might have wider social implications by enforcing dehumanizing attitudes. I’m sure every little person who is an actor, after yet another audition for an elf/leprechaun/magical sprite, must at some point in his career have a “There’s always work at the Post Office” conversation with himself.

As we’re seeing improvements in special effects, filmmakers are going to prefer casting the actor of their choice for any given role, rather than limiting their selection only to little people for these fantasy roles. What I’m not so sure of is whether or not we’ll see any increase in casting little people as regular humans. There may come a day when they’ll curse modern special effects and wish for the opportunity to play an elf.

interesting comments, bienville.

I suspect that what we continue to see has its roots in how we have viewed human anomalies since recorded time.

When there was no scientific explanation for atypical births they were instead attributed to the gods, possibly as harbingers of events to come.

As such they were regarded with fear and respect. With little people you have to wonder which came first - the fairy tales and folk legends or the little people themselves.

This carried over into the golden age of side show where there were generally two ways of displaying humans - either aggrandized or degraded (i.e General Tom Thumb vs.the Wild Man of Borneo).

Generally the little people were displayed in the aggrandized mode and given names of royalty or military commanders. As a rule they were considered to be quite special.

Are we more disrespectful now or more sensitized to the other? Just throwing some ideas out.

Do we have any little people on this Board who could chime in? Seems like we have every other type of person on here. We must have one or two.