Peter Dinklage – he of the recent Emmy win for the HBO series “Game of Thrones” -- has been in his fair share of indie films (“The Station Agent,” “Living in Oblivion,” “Human Nature,” “Saint John of Las Vegas”). So when his friend Alexandre Rockwell ("In the Soup," "Four Rooms") approached him to star in his new film, the noir-ish dramedy “Pete Smalls Is Dead” -- which hits VOD today, November 4th -- the actor offered to take on an additional role as a producer.
“Producer titles kind of get handed out like candy a little too much,” Dinklage told The Playlist this week. “Some films will have over a hundred producers listed, like anybody who gave a bit of good advice gets a producer credit. So I had a few trepidations at first, but I thought I could help my friend.”
Being a producer was an all-hands-on-deck experience for Dinklage, who wanted to make sure he supported and protected the director. “With a film this size, you do everything,” he said. “You put garbage in the dumpster. You clean the offices. And you champion the writer, the director, the actors. With what little sort of say I have in the indie film community, I wanted to protect him from the sort of influences that could damage the film so he could focus on the work at hand. That’s why I got involved.”
Dinklage’s character in the film, onetime screenwriter K.C. Monk, actually could have used that kind of protection – his script was stolen from him and was about to be made into a film by big time director Pete Smalls (played by Tim Roth in Michael Bay mode), who had passed it off as his own, until his untimely death on set. “It calls into question when are things stolen, and when are things borrowed? When is it intellectual property? Because everybody borrows from each other,” Dinklage said.
As K.C. sets out to recover his film and possibly even get it made as he originally conceived it, he sets off a comedy of errors as he goes deep into Hollywood’s underbelly, encountering gangsters, loan sharks, and dubious film producers (including one played by Steve Buscemi, in a blonde Afro wig).
“That just shows he will do anything,” Dinklage said. “We handed him a neck brace, a wig, and made him look like Phil Spector, and he said, ‘OK!’ Everyone, all the actors, we all love Alexandre, so whatever it is, we’ll do it for him, without looking at salaries or schedules. I’d play a glass of water for him.”
Keeping egos in check extended to the look of the film, in which the actors allowed themselves to look a little more ruffled than usual, even in close-ups – which Dinklage took as a welcome break from his work on “Game of Thrones.”
“I love our crew on that show, but often times, you’re getting makeup touch-ups in between almost every take, and sometimes, that cuts into what you do, and you’re just like, ‘It’s fine, I’m okay,’” Dinklage said. “Everything becomes slick and polished, which works for certain genres. That’s sort of why I love ‘Pete Smalls.’ Flaws can be romantic. Ugly can be beautiful. Women don’t get out of bed with their hair done and makeup on. Some of us have bedhead. Some of us have scars. Some of us have busted noses.”
Including his own. For season two of “Game of Thrones” – as readers of the second book in the series, “A Clash of Kings,” already know – Dinklage’s Tyrion loses part of his nose in battle. And in 'Pete Smalls,' Dinklage’s K.C. breaks his nose in a pivotal scene, causing him to walk around bruised and bandaged for the rest of the film, lending a bit of a film noir touch.
“It’s the ‘Chinatown’ thing,” Dinklage said. “It definitely draws focus to his face, and there’s something endearing about it, like a puppy with a stone in his paw. It’s a quick way to get the girl to touch his nose, too.”
In a separate homage, Dinklage sends up his own fantasy show in the upcoming comedy/horror/fantasy/adventure mashup “Knights of Badassdom,” in which he costars with genre faves Summer Glau and Ryan Kwanten, as live-action role players who get in over their heads when they conjure up a succubus. “It’s not a movie that makes fun of those people,” Dinklage cautioned. “It is really loving and it embraces LARPing wholeheartedly. Most of the people in the film are real LARPers, all the extras and small parts. And we did a lot of LARP training ourselves. We had LARP boot camp.”
"Pete Smalls Is Dead" is out on VOD today November 4th and a theatrical release begins in Los Angeles on Friday, November 11th.