Best Small Actors : Top 10 Iconic Short Actors

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In the recent Snow White and the Huntsman, regular-sized actors played the ‘dwarves’, with the assistance of movie magic. The same approach was also used in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the upcoming The Hobbit (and its upcoming sequel).

However, there is a lot to be said for using actual actors of short stature for these types of roles. Here are some of the greatest to grace the screen:

10.  Michael J. Anderson

Michael J. Anderson entered the American consciousness as the Man From Another Place in David Lynch’s trippy 1990-1991 series Twin Peaks. Anderson’s Man From Another Place really did seem almost alien with his own unique style of speech, mannerisms, and dress. There is also the fact that you literally can’t un-see him dance. Once seen, Cooper’s dream sequence with Michael J. Anderson will never leave your memory.

9.  David Rappaport

After a start in children’s programming in his native England, David Rappaport rose to prominence with the role of dwarf leader Randall in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. Rappaport was one of the few actors of his height to ever be given a starring role in a TV series: he was the main protagonist in the brief series The Wizard. Rappaport was equally capable in dramatic roles, particularly remembered as the lawyer Hamilton Schuyler aka ‘Mighty Mouse’ in the series L. A. Law. Sadly, Rappaport suffered from depression in later years and committed suicide in 1990.

8.  Jack Purvis


Quick. Name the only actor to have three different roles in the original Star Wars trilogy?  Jack Purvis was a Jawa in A New Hope,  an Ugnaught in The Empire Strikes Back, and an Ewok (along with his daughter!) in Return of the Jedi.

Purvis’ big break came when his touring partner in a stage show called ‘The Mini Tones,’ Kenny Baker, was offered the part of R2-D2 in Star Wars. Not wanting his partner to starve, Baker helped Purvis get in the production as a Jawa. Purvis was also a favorite of director Terry Glliam starring in Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. A car accident left Purvis with a broken neck, ending his acting career. A quadriplegic as a result, Purvis passed away from complications of his condition in 1997.

7.  Michael Dunn

Michael Dunn rose to fame as the diabolical, brilliant and evil Dr. Miguelito Loveless in the 1960’s television series Wild Wild West.  Dunn had some renown as a ladies man and was the subject of a Hollywood urban legend. The story goes that Dunn was drunk at a party that included Sophia Loren. Dunn bluntly told Loren of his desire to have sex with her. Loren was given credit for the following response “If you do, and so help me if I ever find out about it….”  Dunn also memorably was in the pilot episode of Get Smart as the villain Mr. Big. Dunn suffered from a distorted ribcage that ultimately led to his death in 1973.

6.  Verne Troyer

Verne Troyer rocketed to fame and cult status with his turn as Mini-Me in 1999’s Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.  As Dr. Evil’s clone (one seventh his size), Troyer firmly established himself as a cultural staple in the 2000’s.  Troyer even appeared in a computer commercial with 7’ 7 Houston Rockets center Yao Ming. Troyer would go on to achieve a little infamy with a leaked sex tape on the site TMZ in 2008.

5. Peter Dinklage

Peter Dinklage is one of the most renowned actors of short stature working today. Dinklage had a break out performance in the Will Ferrell comedy Elf. As children’s author Miles Finch, Dinklage famously kicked Will Ferrell’s ass in the boardroom scene. Dinklage followed up by showing dramatic range with the role of Tumpkin in 2008’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.  These days, Peter Dinklage is achieving both cult and critical status as the morally ambiguous Tyrion Lannister in the HBO series Game of Thrones inspired by George R. R. Martin’s A Song of  Fire and Ice. In the second season of Game of Thrones, Dinklage is even given top billing.

4.  Kenny Baker

Without Kenny Baker in the driver’s seat, R2-D2 would have about as much personality as that red droid with a bad action figure blowing a gasket on Tatooine. Baker’s performance as R2 D2 in all six Star Wars films transcended mere cinema into pop culture consciousness. In addition, Baker also starred in Time Bandits and made an appearance in Labyrinth. Recently, Baker also revealed that he considered co-star Anthony Daniels to be extremely rude and would not step foot in the same room with Daniels without having to. (kennybaker.co.uk)

3.  Meinhardt Raabe

“She is not only merely dead, she is most sincerely dead.” With that line, Meinhardt Raabe took his one film role as the Munchkin Coroner into the minds and hearts of generations of viewers. Before and after The Wizard of Oz, Raabe was an employee of the Oscar Meyer corporation, crossing the country for decades as the driver of Oscar Meyer’s Weinermobile. Recently, an opening for only twelve spots driving the Weinermobile drew interest from thousands of college graduates. During his lifetime, Raabe would often appear with fellow Munchkin actors in full wardrobe at reunions. Raabe also frequently and graciously discussed the experience with fans as well as the media. Raabe passed away in 2010 at the age of 95.

2.  Hervé Villechaize

Herve Villechaize was a French actor who first came to prominence as the sinister character of Nick Nack in the James Bond movie The Man With The Golden Gun. The role of Nick Nack led to his role as Tattoo on the popular television show Fantasy Island opposite Ricardo Montalban. During the late seventies and early eighties, Villechaize’s Tattoo famously rang the bell and shouted “Da plane! Boss! Da plane!’ After leaving the show, Villechaize would not find the same level of success. The constant pain of various medical conditions led to his suicide in 1993.

1. Warwick Davis

An 11 year old Warwick Davis stepped in for an ill Kenny Baker in the role of the Ewok Wicket Warrick in 1981. Since then, Davis has not only been in Star Wars movies, but also Harry Potter films, Labyrinth, the horror comedy franchise Leprechaun, The Chronicles of Narnia (both on TV and the big screen), and The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. With the exception of Lord of the Rings, Warwick Davis appears in almost every fantasy movie franchise made in the last 30 years. Most recently he appears in a BBC sitcom playing a fictionalized version of himself, called Life’s Too Short. (warwickdavis.co.uk)

Watch our TopTenz YouTube playlist for more footage, or leave your nominations in the comments and we might add them:

Top 10 Short Actors YouTube Playlist

by James Ciscell

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15 Comments

  1. I think Billy Barty should have received a mention on this list, with several movie and TV credits in the 70’s and 80’s.

  2. I totally agree with you Danny Land. Billy Barty should definitely be on this list somewhere. Billy was in Willow, Legend, and many, many more movies and TV shows. Billy Barty should be on this list somewhere.

  3. How can you not mention “The Station Agent” when talking about Peter Dinklage? Next to Tyrion that is the role he has been most critically lauded for & that showed him as a legitimate leading man.

  4. Peter Boucher on

    Although he wasn’t a little person and was turned down for many roles, you have a good argument for the iconic actor actor Alan Ladd (“Shane”) 1953. Another one who is short in stature is Michael Douglas.

  5. Peter Dinklage should have been ranked higher. He’s had some good serious roles where he didn’t play a fantasy based character.

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