Peter Dinklage addresses whitewashing controversy in new film ‘My Dinner with Hervé’: ‘He was French’

Peter Dinklage spent a lot of time trying to get HBO’s upcoming film about fellow actor with dwarfism, Hervé Villechaize, made. Now, he’s commenting on claims of whitewashing the late actor, despite critics getting his ethnicity wrong.

The film, “My Dinner with Hervé” stars the “Game of Thrones” actor as Villechaize, who fans may remember from the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” or as Tattoo, the excited man who would yell “The plane! The plane!” on “Fantasy Island.”

Some critics were quick to lambast Dinklage for whitewashing the role arguing that HBO should have sought out a Filipino actor with dwarfism. However, speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Dinklage addressed those criticisms by noting the simple problem with them – Villechaize was French.

“The internet is the best thing and the worst thing. The funny thing about the backlash is it addresses what we address in the film about not judging a book by its cover. Hervé was judged by how he looked, and cast and perceived to be who he is accordingly,” Dinklage told the outlet.

He continued: “There’s this term ‘whitewashing.’ I completely understand that. But Hervé wasn’t Filipino. Dwarfism manifests physically in many different ways. I have a very different type of dwarfism than Hervé had. I’ve met his brother and other members of his family. He was French, and of German and English descent. So it’s strange these people are saying he’s Filipino. They kind of don’t have any information.”

The 49-year-old star noted that he’s not necessarily against those who get upset when a role is, by all definitions, whitewashed. However, in the case of Villechaize, he notes that people are so quick to defend his ethnicity, that they judge him based on preconceived notions about who he is that aren’t based on facts.

“These people think they’re doing the right thing politically and morally and it’s actually getting flipped because what they’re doing is judging and assuming what he is ethnically based on his looks alone. He has a very unique face and people have to be very careful about this stuff. This [movie] isn’t ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’” he said, referencing the infamously stereotypical portrayal of an Asian character by white comedian Mickey Rooney. “Personally, I would never do that, and I haven’t done that, because he wasn’t. People are jumping to conclusions based on a man’s appearance alone and that saddens me.”

Dinklage went on to speculate that people may have been thinking of Villechaize from his role in the Roger Moore “Bond” movie, which was shot in Southeast Asia, as well as “Fantasy Island,” and simply assumed he was from those areas. However, prior to moving to New York to become an actor, Villechaize was a native of Paris.

“My Dinner with Hervé” covers the tragic three-day span in which writer-director Sacha Gervasi, played by Jamie Dornan in the film, spent time with Villechaize just before he committed suicide in 1993 after a downward spiral in his career and chronic pain from his dwarfism.

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