CATEGORIES Movie NewsLast month, Peter Dinklage was set to deliver the commencement speech at Bennington College, his alma mater. After stepping to the podium, he placed a gigantic, student-made mace down in front of him. "Don't be frightened," he told the crowd, eliciting laughs and cheers from those in attendance.
The medieval weapon was a nod to the role Dinklage is best known for: Tyrion Lannister, the brilliant quick-witted dwarf on the HBO series "Game of Thrones." Since the show's debut in 2011, the 43-year-old actor has been thrust into the spotlight, winning awards and gracing magazine covers.
Adding to it all is Dinklage's small stature, which has become a popular talking point during his interviews. Thankfully, Dinklage has tried not to let it define him, by accepting roles that, as he describes, are more "complicated" than those typically offered to someone his size. This includes parts in animated films as well, like Dinklage's character in the upcoming sequel "Ice Age: Continental Drift" (which hits theaters this Friday), where he plays the villainous pirate ape Captain Gutt.
Moviefone recently spoke with Dinklage about "Ice Age," the very dedicated "Game of Thrones" fan base, and what it was like kicking Will Ferrell's ass in one of Dinklage's first major films, "Elf."
This interview was confirmed at the last minute, so I unfortunately wasn't able to see "Ice Age 4." Therefore, I am just going to assume it's about Scrat's adventures north of the Wall. Yes! Jon Snow makes an appearance. It's basically just an animated "Game of Thrones" [laughs]. I hadn't even thought about that. That's funny. I just saw [the film] a couple days ago. It was a lot of fun. It's amazing what they can do with animation nowadays. It's really beautiful. The 3D stuff is out of hand.
From the trailer and clips I saw, it sounds like you're having a good time playing Captain Gutt. Yes, he's the villain and villains are always [fun]. You can't play them in real life, so it's fun to play them in the movies.
Everyone says it's more fun to play the bad guy than a regular character. Is that true, even with animation? Bad guys are complicated characters. It's always fun to play them. You get away with a lot more. You don't have a heroic code you have to live by.
So this is your first animated film. How is the audition process for something like this? Does the director just offer you role the assuming you can pull off a specific voice? Or do you actually audition for it? They called my agent and asked if I would be interested. I was nervous the first couple of [voice] sessions, because I was new to it. I felt like I was doing everything wrong. Steve [Martino] and Mike [Thurmeier], the directors, were there, and they just allowed me to explore it and have fun with it and try a couple different voices. I don't know if that happens all the time, but they were just open to my ideas. It was just a great way of working. But I always thought I was going to be fired after the first couple of sessions.
Why's that? Because it was new to me. There are people in this movie who have been doing it for awhile, and I just didn't know the secret of it. But I guess they trusted me to know what to do, and it worked out.
You've obviously seen yourself in films before, but how different was watching this particular role and hearing your voice behind an animated character? It's much easier to watch. I often don't see what I've done or I cringe when I watch myself. This one I could completely sit back and enjoy. And I'd never done a 3D movie before, and that was pretty unique. It's part of the fun of being an actor -- trying new things.
I wanted to switch gears and talk about "Elf." That was one of your first major films and you're being asked to beat up the beloved Will Ferrell during your scene. Was there any hesitation on your part? Well, they gave me a good table to run on! [The director] John Favreau is an actor as well, and he just knew how to make you comfortable. Will Ferrell is just about the nicest guy -- anyone can tell you that. I won't say it was quite easy to kick his ass, but I didn't feel uncomfortable doing it.
Did you do your own stunts for that scene? I did some of them. There was one that I didn't do. It wasn't too complicated of a stunt. It was definitely more for Will Ferrell's stunt double, because he had to do sort of a backflip onto a table, which I wouldn't advise anybody to do.
You've really been pushed into the spotlight this year. You were on the cover of Rolling Stone, GQ... Moviefone!
[Laughs] Yes, Moviefone. I imagine it's been a bit of a weird experience, having gone from relatively unknown actor to A-List in less than 12 months I don't know. These things are out of my control. Even in interviews, I don't know [pauses]. I don't know who I am, in terms of all of this stuff. I know who I am privately, but all the other stuff... You do interviews and you put on airs, and maybe it's not who you really are, but I try to be honest, and have a sense of humor. I mean, I am 43 now. It's probably a lot healthier that it's happening now than if it happened in my earlier 20s. I probably wouldn't have been able to deal with it well then. But when you get older and get a little more comfortable with who you are, then you can sort of have a sense of humor about it all.
So you feel like you're along for the ride? Yes. And you know, part of it is promoting the stuff you're in. "Game of Thrones" is an amazing show, and I have no problem speaking of the virtues of HBO. Because it is promoting a business and we are the spokespeople for it.
Is there a worry on your part being typecast as Tyrion? Um, no. I mean, if that starts happening, I can just say no. No is a pretty easy word to use, and I've used it often enough. I [also] don't know if [anyone] can recreate George R.R. Martin's characters. Tyrion's a pretty complicated character. But I try and look out for [typecasting]. I just don't like boring myself. That's one of the main reasons I did "Ice Age," because I'd never done something like this before. I wanted to see what it was all about. I think if actors are successful at one thing, they paint themselves into a corner sometimes, and what's the fun in that?
Does a character mean more to you when you spend more time with it, such as Tyrion, or does it depend on the project? It depends on the writing. It depends on the project. Of course, "Game of Thrones" takes a lot longer. It's about 20 hours worth of material at this point, and we're about to go into season three, so if the writing and the character and all the other pieces are in place, it's a great way to play. It's a slow burn: you don't have to reveal all your cards in the span of 90 minutes. You get a much longer time and there's fun in that. Because such is life; people are complicated. And that's what I love about this character and other characters on the show: You think you have them figured out and you don't, and that's very true outside of this business.
I wanted to ask you about the experience of going back to your school and giving a commencement speech, which you did last month. That seems like a daunting task. I graduated from Bennington College in 1991, and I hadn't been back since. For a lot of people, [college] is very important. It's only four years, and I have been out of that school so much longer than I was there, but it's a turning point in a lot of people's lives, and I think that's why we return to it. They just asked me [to speak], and I tried to be honest in the speech, that they could have gotten people who were a lot better at writing speeches than me. I had never written one before, so I basically put all my fear and anxiety into the speech. But the main thing I wanted to focus on with them [was that] everybody talks in broad terms about the "big picture," and I wasn't really interested in that when I was graduating school. I was kind of terrified about what I was going to do when I left campus. How was I going to pay the bills and make life work? Maybe everyone is a little too reassuring that things are going to be OK to college graduates. It gives them a false sort of security. I think that's what was given to me and I fell on my face. I just wanted to be honest with them, that they had to persevere.
So brutal honesty with a bit of humor? After all, you ended up bringing a mace up to the podium. Yeah! This graduating [student] gave it to me, literally about ten minutes before I went on, so I couldn't not bring it on with me.
How often do you get medieval weapons from "Game of Thrones" fans? That was my first mace. [The student] made it in art class or the sculpture studio. You get some funky things when you go to these conventions. But the "Game of Thrones" fans, they're such an amazing fan base... I will take anything they give me, because they're really the reason we do the show. So you can't always distance yourself from them, and I never try to. You should always take the time to speak with them, because they are very curious. They know so much more about the show and what I do, than [I do].