I kind of feel like I should write a long disclaimer at the beginning of this post. That discomfort — that squicky feeling I have — is what leads me to say that sometimes even a seasoned, presumably media savvy actor needs to think a little more before he speaks. So here’s the disclaimer part: I adore Charles Dance, and I honestly believe there was zero negativity in his mind when he spoke about fellow Game of Thrones actor and friend, Peter Dinklage. Perhaps Dinklage himself wouldn’t even be upset by these comments coming from Dance; but does that make them okay?
Let’s get to the quotes. In a Daily Beast promotional interview for The Imitation Game, the discussion eventually led to Dance’s role as Tywin Lannister. He speaks with genuine warmth and regard about his fondest Game of Thrones memory — working with Peter:
“One of the biggest joys was working with Peter Dinklage,” says Dance. “He’s the sweetest man, and a phenomenal actor. He must be the envy of every dwarf actor in the world because those parts don’t come along too often. He’s also extremely handsome. If you look at his head, it’s like Michelangelo’s David.
And he’s such a great guy, too. I spent a lot of time apologizing to Peter because we play scenes where I treat him like shit, calling him a ‘lecherous little stump’ and saying I wanted to ‘carry you out to sea and let the waves take you away.’”
Okay, so clearly Dance means nothing but to be complementary here, but still, his comments about Peter being “the envy of every dwarf” make me cringe. Dinklage is a brilliant, fantastic actor, and yes, he’s handsome; both points could have been made without ever referencing the actor as a dwarf. And the slightest change to that David comment — If you look at his face — would make all the difference. Now you might say I’m making mountain from molehill, let me clarify, there’s zero outrage here. I simply feel that for someone who clearly respects and adores Dinklage, Dance could have been more thoughtful with his words.
In interviews (especially this New York Times piece), Dinklage has made it known that it’s important to him he be seen as an actor, not through the lens of his achondroplasia. Early in his career, he turned down many roles that were specifically offered because of his size (elves, leprechauns). When Dinklage talked about co-star Gary Oldman (on his knees) playing a dwarf in Tiptoes, he said it was “…almost like blackface…but I was just like: ‘It’s Gary Oldman. He can do whatever he wants, and I’m so happy to be here.’ “
Later in the same interview, Dinklage makes his feelings pretty clear:
“Dwarves are still the butt of jokes. It’s one of the last bastions of acceptable prejudice. Not just by people who’ve had too much to drink in England and want to throw a person [referencing Martin Henderson] But by media, everything.”
However complementary Charles Dance was trying to be toward his friend; however close the actors may be, I really wish he’d simply chosen his words better.