Peter Dinklage remembers when Hervé Villechaize’s star began to rise in Hollywood.
“I felt like everybody did — especially somebody of my size — to be honest, as a young, angry gentleman, I was in judgment of the man. Why would he take these roles that sort of seem to be side-kicky and demeaning?” Dinklage told Variety on Thursday at the premiere of HBO’s new biopic “My Dinner With Hervé.” “Then when you get to know who he was … there’s more to the story.”
The “Game of Thrones” Emmy winner stars in “My Dinner With Hervé” as the late actor in a story inspired by the time director Sacha Gervasi was a journalist sent to interview Villechaize, 25 years ago for the “Mail on Sunday.” The journalist (named Danny Tate in the film) is played by Jamie Dornan.
“I walked [into the interview] with so many judgements about who Hervé was. I thought ‘Oh, this will be a funny story,'” Gervasi recalled. “What I found was someone who was dramatically different from how I imagined him to be. Dangerous, complicated, hilarious, incredibly urbane, well-educated — the guy was an unbelievable force of nature.”
Villechaize rose to fame as Nick Nack in the 1974 James Bond pic “The Man With the Golden Gun,” before becoming a household name in the ’80s for his work as Tattoo opposite Ricardo Montalbán on “Fantasy Island.”
Villechaize was just 50 years old when he committed suicide a week after Gervasi interviewed him.
“He told me the truth of his life story, and no one else knew it,” Gervasi said. “I was his suicide note, and so I had to kind of get it out.”
Villechaize’s legacy was well represented at Thursday’s premiere, which featured a “Fantasy Island”-themed red carpet, complete with miniature banquet tables and framed pictures of the film’s title. A large, white limo, Villechaize’s ride of choice in the film, was also present, waiting to greet new arrivals at the top of the carpet.
“If he was here, he probably would be very proud that they’re making a movie about him, but then he’d be annoyed that he wasn’t the star,” Villecchaize’s longtime girlfriend, Kathy Self, told Variety.
Self said seeing and hearing Dinklage’s take on the French actor — she said he nailed his iconic accent — brought back a host of memories, including the times she would help Villechaize put on his white suit for “Fantasy Island.”
“Peter is an amazing person, and I think had they actually met and spoke, Hervé would have loved him,” she said. “I think he would be a little jealous of him, too.”
Cast members Mireille Enos, Andy Garcia, Oona Chaplin, Wallace Langham, and Mark Povinelli were also in attendance, as were Dinklage’s “Game of Thrones” co-star Emilia Clarke, Margot Robbie, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Sam Taylor-Johnson.
“My Dinner With Herve” premieres Oct. 20 on HBO.